Founders Tom and Vickie VanWingerden emigrated from the Netherlands in 1971 and initially rented a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse on 3 acres in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1972. One year later, the family moved to Huntersville, NC, opening a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse on 85 acres of land and started what is now the largest single site greenhouse in the United States. The first greenhouse was a one acre plastic covered galvanized structure.
By 1982, the greenhouse had grown to 12 acres and to 50 acres by 1996. During the last 15 years they have grown from 50 acres to 141 acres of greenhouse space and hot-dip galvanizing has been integral to all of the construction. Galvanizing was engineered into the first buildings and all future construction will include it to protect the steel from the moist environment of the greenhouse.
Metrolina Greenhouses’ newest $50 million addition will bring the total size of the building to 5.8 million square feet. That’s a footprint area larger than the 4.3 million-square-foot Boeing plant in Everett, Washington. They employ 550 people year round and use an additional 300 temporary workers during the peak times of the year. Employees use golf carts, mopeds and bicycles to travel through the indoor farm. Every year more than 75 million plants and over 700 varieties are grown in this heated greenhouse. Metrolina Greenhouses is the largest single-story building in the United States, with annual sales of over $125 million.
Metrolina is green beyond what it grows in its greenhouses. Chevrolet has invested 40 million dollars in projects around the world that reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and Metrolina Greenhouses is one of those projects. The boilers used to heat the greenhouses have replaced 100% of fossil fuels with biomass. All of the runoff water from rainfall and the greenhouse floors is captured in retention ponds, cleaned and recycled. Plastic potting trays that aren’t re-used are recycled at a local plastics recycler. Metrolina is developing organic trays that can be used to plant directly into the soil and eliminate plastic altogether. In a similar fashion, Metrolina chose hot dip galvanizing for all of their structures beginning in the 1970’s and continuing through today.
Art VanWingerden said, “Not only does galvanizing provide an exceptionally long life in the hot, moist greenhouse setting, but also corresponds with our efforts to protect the environment by eliminating the VOC’s released when paint is used for corrosion protection.” Metrolina Greenhouses is an outstanding example of vision to protect our resources and our planet.
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