Passive Solar Greenhouse Design Course

Build your own passive solar greenhouse. Not just a structure, but a quantified structure.

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The Live Lessons Began April 28th, 2017

Recordings for all of the live lessons are available.

The live lessons are every Friday at 5pm Pacific, 8pm Eastern starting on April 28th.
More details are listed under the course curriculum below.

Learn From Our Mistakes

Honestly, we have made every mistake. My greenhouse in my backyard is the ultimate experiment. I designed it while working as a passive solar house designer and I applied a ton of my ideas in house design into the greenhouse which seemed like a good idea but they all backfired. It is the best thing I have ever done as I have learned more through these mistakes than I could have if I had done it "right" the first time. The three major mistakes are

Lack of ventilation - this is fixed now but caused major crop loss every year.

An Overhang - originally designed to reduce overheating in the summer but it also cuts out light input which stops plants growing in the summer.

Building a greenhouse on a concrete slab - This prevents my greenhouse from going 4 seasons. I still stand behind this decision as it is not my concrete pad to jack hammer up but I am never building a greenhouse on concrete again.

Your Instructor

Rob Avis
Rob Avis

With over 20 years of combined experience in engineering, project management, ecological design and sustainable technologies, Rob and his wife Michelle Avis own & operate Adaptive Habitat – a unique and leading edge property design and management company in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

As skilled Professional Engineers, they offer a depth of practical expertise in building science and appropriate technology (solar, wind, combined heat & power), as well as rainwater harvesting, agro-ecology, ecosystem engineering, soil regeneration and onsite wastewater treatment / septic design.

Their extensive project management experience includes site analysis, technical design, cost estimating and scheduling, through to commissioning and construction.

Both hold a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Alberta, interned at the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Denmark, and co-founded Verge Permaculture in 2008, now an internationally-recognized & award-winning regenerative design, consulting, and education centre.

Course Schedule

The first lesson begins April 28th at 5pm Pacific time, 8pm Eastern time. These are weekly lessons however you will have access to all the study material and additional videos as well as discussion and question board throughout the course.

Each lesson is recorded and made available to watch again or if you missed a lesson so that you can learn at your own pace if needed.

Class Curriculum

  Week 7 - Heating Your Greenhouse and Going Beyond Just Growing / Saunas Hot Tubs Root Cellars and...
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Greenhouse Design Plans
Available in days
days after you enroll

Who Should Take This Online Course?

This course is geared towards those who want independence and resilience in their lives. This is a DESIGN course. This means you will be designing a structure to be built. Whether you are just getting started and want to grow your own food or you are a full on permaculture enthusiast, this course, taught by professional engineer Rob Avis, will give you the tools you need to design your own passive solar greenhouse. Of course, thanks to the plans available during this course, you can call a local civil engineer or carpenter to build your greenhouse and enjoy this new lifestyle!

Everyone can agree that owning a home, aside from being a long-lasting financial investment, is also the foundation upon which one builds their life. Why not make it count as a twofold investment by boosting your quality of life to the next level? The addition of a passive solar greenhouse can help you do just that. With a little effort, you can lower your overall energy cost and reduce your grocery bills at the same time!

What This Course Has to Offer

The Passive Solar Greenhouse course contains everything you need to know about passive solar greenhouses! The best information and tools are provided so that you may create your own oasis and abundant lifestyle with Passive Solar Greenhouses.

We will be heavily using the Passive Solar Greenhouse Design Tool developed by Rob Avis. You will get access to this tool and it is the main tool used and learned during this course.

Greenhouse Design Tool

The Greenhouse Design Tool does the following: The tool translates your goals, your climatic conditions and your design decisions into actionable information that you can use to reduce your heat loss, understand your power requirements, optimize the thermal mass in the building and design artificial light systems and subterranean heating and cooling systems.

You can check out the Demonstration Version of the Design Tool Here.

System Requirements

There are some system requirements for this course so that you can use the Tool.

  1. You will need access to a PC version of Excel that can run MS excel files. Excel 2013 or higher. Note that Mac Excel may not run this sheet.
  2. You will also need a calculator.

We have a Demonstration Version of the Tool available here.
You can use this demonstration version to verify that it will work on your system.


All the required information to master the conception and construction of an abundant greenhouse. You will be given the tools, and taught how to use these tools, to understand exactly what you need for your passive solar greenhouse. You will also have the opportunity to get the full plans in both PDF and CAD. If you are an experienced builder you can use these CAD plans yourself or if you are not a builder these CAD plans will save you a bundle with your builder.


I have learned a lot over the years from constant trial and error. In this process I have come up with what I believe to be the perfect passive solar greenhouse design. I will share everything I have learned with you including:

  • The Importance of Goal Setting - Goal setting is the start of any success project. If you don't have a set of realistic goals you will never get anywhere. In this lesson we break down what these goals might look like, how to set them and how to translate them into design directives that are actionable.
  • Site Selection, Orientation, Aspect Ratio & Shape - The physical shape of the greenhouse is one of the most important aspects to get right, right from the start. We talk about dome greenhouses, hoop houses, walipinis and passive solar greenhouses. Each of these greenhouses has inherent pros and cons which will discuss at length. By the end of this lesson you will know how to choose a greenhouse shape and orientation.
  • Foundation, Kneewall & Ventilation - These three components are crucial to the long term stability and usability of the greenhouse. The foundation design is crucial to supporting the greenhouse but also plays a crucial roll in keeping heat in the building. The kneewall will ensure that your greenhouse is ergonomic and that the ventilation continues to work. Getting the right amount of ventilation will ensure that you have healthy plants that grow almost effortlessly.
  • Glazing & Light - Plants are super efficient solar collectors, greenhouses should be spaces that enhance the solar collection of plants. Glazing is the transparent material that keeps in the heat but lets through the light. Heat and light have an interesting relationship in that the more light the glass lets in the more heat it lets out. Choosing the right glazing is crucial to making sure your plants get enough light energy while staying cozy inside. We will also talk about artificial lights, the different types, how many you might need and how much it will cost you monthly and yearly to run them. We have built a special section in our design tool that makes sizing artificial light a breeze.
  • Insulation, Thermal Mass and Calculating Heat Loss - In this lesson we will teach you how to use the design tool to optimize the R value of the walls of your greenhouse so that you are using the least amount of energy to keep it warm. We will show you how your wall segments translate into the amount of energy and ultimately $'s that you need to spend on a monthly or yearly basis so that you can plan ahead.
  • Internal Design Integrated Design - Lastly we will talk about elements that you can integrate into the greenhouse that will enhance the space. We love to integrate things like saunas, hot tubs, canning kitchens, roots cellars and "relaxation infrastructure" that can make hard winters a breeze!

Full Passive Solar Greenhouse Plans

The Greenhouse Plans are Adaptive Habitat's latest version of our greenhouse. It combines a passive solar greenhouse, commercial kitchen and root cellar into one package. It takes all of our learnings in the last 10 years and applies it into one structure. To have us customize this greenhouse would literally cost over $10,000.

Community and Expert Support

With your enrollment into this course you get access to our community portal which allows you to ask questions directly to our team and Rob himself as well as connect, discuss and collaborate with other participants. You will also have the opportunity to join in on each of the six live consultation question and answer sessions.

Class Curriculum

  Week 7 - Heating Your Greenhouse and Going Beyond Just Growing / Saunas Hot Tubs Root Cellars and...
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Greenhouse Design Plans
Available in days
days after you enroll

Over the past five years I have watched Rob and Michelle build Verge Permaculture from the ground up and I am proud to say that Verge Permaculture is now one of North America's premier permaculture design and education companies.

- Geoff Lawton

If you want to schedule an event with them, or just attend one, I recommend them very, very highly.

- Toby Hemenway

Rob and Michelle truly inspired me in so many ways. It's their passion for social change, that keeps me inspired to keep on given er'.

- Curtis Stone

Rob & Michelle - I'm proud of your work and your vision. What a delight to see young people like you embrace and then lend your savvy talents to this movement.

- Joel Salatin

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts April 28th and lasts eight weeks! The each lesson is taught online and live. If you are unable to make the live lesson, each lesson is recorded and will be made available the following day to re-watch or download as needed.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 14 days and we will give you a full refund.
When does registration close for this course?
The course starts April 28th. We will allow you to register up until April 27th, however, we are only offering 500 seats to this course. We will probably sell out this course before then and at that time will close down registration.
Will I be able to ask question during the course?
During the live lesson, you can ask any questions or request any advice from your instructor, Rob Avis. Those will be answered live during the lesson. If you are unable to make the live lesson to ask your questions you can leave your questions in the comments section below and your instructor, at his discretion, will answer them in a direct reply or record a video to answer your questions.
Are there any System Requirements for this course?
Yes, for this course you will need a PC version of Excel that can run MS excel files. Excel 2013 or later. Note that Mac Excel may not run this sheet. You will also need a calculator. You can get the Demonstration Version (Demo) of the Tool here to ensure it will run on your system. You will need to allow macros when you open up the tool.

Legal stuff about the plans:

The plans are not stamped or certified by an engineer for any bioregion. Plans require final design by a civil engineer for foundation, wall, glazing support and roof design. The greenhouse also requires a local mechanical engineer to certify that minimum ventilation and heat requirements have been met for this greenhouse.
These drawings are meant to speed up the design process and save money in drafting, not provide a final set of plans. Verge Permaculture, Adaptive Habitat and PermaEthos take no liability for the bioregional adequacy of the structure or local indoor air quality requirements. All components of this building REQUIRE detail design and customization by a certified engineer(s) or architect(s).

This course is not open for enrollment.