As E.A. Fowler, an agricultural engineer, wrote over 100 years ago, “Farm buildings are the farmer’s factory.” Therefore there is no more important component to a farm’s productivity than an adequate structure. While farm structures have been slow to evolve — largely because of the capital risk involved — the growing informational network means we know a lot more now than we did then.
There was a dramatic increase in farm productivity in the 20th century, largely due to steady advancements in technology and research, and improved effectiveness and efficiency of farm structures was part of this development. However, high capital costs still mean no decision to build a farm structure should be taken lightly. We have highlighted some key decisions farmers and homesteaders should consider when planning a new build.
What is the reason for your new build? Is it geared toward improving animal welfare, facilitating a new enterprise, boosting returns or simply for the benefit of an additional building? Once you’ve confirmed this, strategically think about how long you need it for and how much flexibility will be demanded from it.
This will determine how resilient it should be, where it should be situated, how much should be invested in it, and the preferable building style and materials used to build it.
Is your building to store more grain or to shelter growing numbers of livestock? The general purpose will dictate size and other specifications, so take a long-term view on it. It may be cheaper to overspec now than to build again in five years if you expect an expansion.
Longevity comes in to play particularly around material specification. For example, wooden timber frame will suit a temporary structure whereas a steel structure will last far longer. Perhaps sacrificing short-term material savings will allow your building to be more flexible and resilient in the future.
You have a range of options for your structure when it comes to types of concrete foundation, including concrete pillars, monolithic or conventional. Luckily, laying a foundation should be relatively easy given today’s innovations — concrete pumps, for example, allow the most efficient and cost-effective options for placing concrete. A boom pump can navigate your farm to the decided pour-site, making transportation of heavy buckets and even crane usage unnecessary.
Building a barn is exciting, but it’s also stressful — especially if you’ve never built one before. One consideration that is particularly costly if missed is land layout.
Sloping land, drainage and prevailing weather are key features in determining where to build your new structure. Water obviously needs to drain away from your structure and open stall runs need to face away from any wind. Furthermore, south-facing property will allow sun exposure to stave off any potential rot from areas used for livestock or grain storage.
Laurel Bishop, national sales assistant for a farm-building designer, asserts that “ventilation is one of the most critical considerations of barn design.” It’s important to avoid the buildup of ammonia in the air from feces and urine.
Once again, depending on the structure’s use, ensure ventilation is present for livestock by way of large openings, mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation.
Siting for light will cut down on electricity bills and make your life easier. Optimum natural light is from the north, so where possible, locate your build with access to such light without shading from trees, slopes or other structures. Furthermore, extend the light consideration to your architecture through skylights to make best use of lighting. Use bright paint on the interiors to best reflect any natural light.
The general effectiveness of your structure and its positive impact on your farm or homestead comes down to the practicality of its location. There should be convenient access from your home to the structure, with a distance of about 75 feet.
Do you know the zoning requirements for your area? Even small invasions of zoning boundaries could put your entire build in jeopardy. On local land, restrictions known as development codes can dictate where you are and aren’t allowed to build. Certain design requirements may be on setbacks from property lines or access by emergency vehicles.
Project management is one of the most important elements of barn or farm building construction, so consider the following tips:
• Plan ahead according to a set timescale
• Use drawings and other tools to help visualize the aim and facilitate quotes
• Be diligent about seeking the correct approvals prior to building
• Don’t diverge too far from your budget
Building a new farm structure is an exciting and substantial decision. If you take the necessary precautions, you will be adding a considerable revenue-enabling asset to your homestead or farm.
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