When You Think You Need A Metal Building

Lucas Greenhouses, a family-owned and operated grower in New Jersey, had outgrown its original shipping facility when owner George Lucas decided to build a new structure in 2014. With demand increasing, the Lucas team was working late into the night during peak months to funnel crops through four shipping doors, and a change was needed. Instead of building a typical metal-frame facility, Lucas decided to build a metal-frame greenhouse. Nexus Vice President of Sales Jeff Warschauer suggested that using a greenhouse would make the space more productive. Lucas, Warschauer said, took the idea “to the max.”

Lucas’ Dual Atrium model shipping facility contains
more than 50,400 square feet of space.

A moving basket system holds the 23,000 8-inch
impatiens that Lucas grows in the springtime.

This facility offers Lucas the flexibility of expanding or reverting
the structure back to a full-time greenhouse.

Lucas chose the Dual Atrium model for his shipping facility and purchased five 42-by-240-foot utility houses with multiple GTI hanging basket systems in the roof. There are 20 shipping doors in the facility, which is raised to truck height so that trucks can back straight up to the loading dock ramp. The facility provides more than 50,400 square feet of space, which has greatly increased efficiency for Lucas Greenhouses. “During the prime springtime, we ship more carts per day and needed to be much more organized,” Lucas said. “We shaved three or four hours per day off shipping time with a team of 10 to 12 people just because of the increased ability to pull in orders and get the trucks ready to go. We get a lot more accomplished.”
On the roof, Lucas grows 23,000 8-inch impatiens in the springtime on a moving basket system. “It’s pretty awesome to see how many are up there,” Lucas said.
He does about a turn-and-a-half of the baskets each year. The Dual Atrium roof can vent vertically open to 85 degrees, providing the air movement and environment Lucas was looking for. “There’s natural light for working during the day,” Lucas said. “It’s nice and cool, with ventilation. It really works as a great shipping environment.” The natural sunlight allows plants to remain in the facility for a longer period of time than in a hard-covered building.
“The plants (waiting to be shipped) get sunlight all day long, so if (the plant) has to sit for two days instead of one, I just have to water them and they’ll be okay,” Lucas said.
The greenhouse also offers flexibility for his business as Lucas continues to consider future expansion. He has the option to revert the shipping facility back to a full-time greenhouse. The structure also allows for Lucas to replace the greenhouse roof with a metal roof, said Warschauer.
“(Lucas) likes to know that with our industry changing all the time, he has flexibility and options to turn to,” he said.
Lucas first purchased a Nexus greenhouse in 1990 and has been working with Warschauer since around 2000. The pair met at Cultivate (then OFA Short Course).
“Jeff really does a great job of service for the project,” Lucas said. “We’ve built a close relationship over the years. He takes care of his customers.”
Lucas remembers an evening after a heavy snow when his crops were threatened. After receiving a call from Lucas, Warschauer drove three hours in the blizzard to be at Lucas Greenhouses the next morning. Warschauer even recently attended the wedding of Lucas’ son.
Lucas said he considers each greenhouse he builds as a tool. “It’s like in a tool bag, where I have a hammer or a screwdriver,” he said. “Each greenhouse has a particular purpose in mind for the type of crop we want to grow in it…each (Nexus structure) has met the goal I had for the structure.”
He added that a key reason for purchasing Nexus greenhouses has been the service he receives. “Every need I have they’ve been able to meet,” Lucas said. “They stand behind their product.”

Posted on 11/25/2015