Mason Lane Farm Operations Facility

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PROJECT SCOPE: The Mason Lane Farm Operations Facility is a new complex for farm equipment servicing, re-fueling & storage, as well as providing seasonal storage for grain & hay. The facility supports a 2,000-acre property utilized for agriculture, recreation, wildlife habitat and conservation purposes. The facility program includes: enclosed storage for farm vehicles & implements, covered hay & equipment storage, grain storage, insulated work area & tool storage, farm manager’s office, shower area, recycling area, and vehicle fueling station. INTEGRATED DESIGN APPROACH: Rooted in the simplicity of regional farm structures & local building traditions, the project employs sustainable strategies that are decidedly ‘low-tech’, favoring conventional construction methods & ordinary materials over specialized systems. In particular, the project implements strategies that take advantage of the cross-synergies between site & building design, focusing on a holistic approach where both components work as a single integrated system. For reasons of both economy and ease of maintenance, the farm complex utilizes simple, passive strategies that are specifically based on an understanding of the regional climate and the nuances of the landscape. The project has been submitted for a Leadership In Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Level certification. DESIGN OVERVIEW: Consolidating the various programmatic elements into two large barn buildings and a grain silo (in order to minimize building footprints), the majority of the project site is allocated to the circulation & access requirements of large-scale farm equipment. The remainder of the property was restored with native planting. Because facility water usage is minimal and site landscaping is limited to native & regionally-adapted plants that do not require irrigation, site-wide stormwater strategies focus on returning runoff to replenish local aquifers. Taking advantage of the existing topography, the porous, drivable gravel surfaces are pitched to channel stormwater into two ‘rain gardens’ planted with native vegetation that provide additional wildlife habitat. Excess run-off is collected within these basins and allowed to percolate back into the groundwater table. In order to minimize maintenance, building roof gutters are eliminated and replaced with ‘site gutters’, a system of drivable, shallow concrete channel swales located & aligned below each roof eave, which directs stormwater to the collection basins. In this manner, the site and buildings work together as a large-scale integrated drainage system. Other than the footprint of the barn buildings, the entire site is pervious. Additionally, the high solar reflectance index (SRI) values of both the gravel surfacing and building roofs reject solar heat and offset the ‘heat island effect’. Working within the pre-existing cleared area of the site, the two buildings (Barn ‘A’ and Barn ‘B’) are arranged to frame an outdoor work courtyard, visually screening farm equipment from the north & south. This configuration allows for the consolidation of outdoor lighting requirements to an internalized site zone and away from the farm complex property perimeter. Since the farm also serves as an astronomical observation site for local university students, rural ‘dark sky’ conditions are preserved through controlled design of illumination levels within the project site & the complete elimination of light power densities beyond the project boundary. Barn ‘A’, with fully enclosed storage & work areas, utilizes a conventional prefabricated wood truss frame clad with corrugated metal panels. The design strategy is reductive and is intended to eliminate the use of finish materials. By emphasizing the layering of construction, building elements that are typically hidden (such as building substrates, fastening screws & alignment lines) are incorporated as design features and reinterpreted as ‘finish’ materials. Specific to the function of the two conditioned work areas within the barn, insulated concrete floor slabs are embedded with warming coils heated by an external wood-fired boiler (fueled by wood debris from the farm). During winter months, comfortable work area temperatures are maintained - even with the garage doors fully open – from the ambient heat of the heated concrete slab. Natural light, ventilation and views are provided to all interior spaces through full-height operable windows which working in concert with a whole-house fan to draw air through the building. During the few summer months when local humidity is extreme, a non-CFC-based refrigerant AC unit operates on an as-needed basis to condition the farm manager’s office. Barn ‘B’, a large covered shed used to store both hay & equipment, is clad in a lattice grid of locally-harvested bamboo sourced only 35 miles from the project site. Considered a fast-growing invasive ‘weed’, the bamboo is a material nod to the square-bale hay that is stacked at each end of the barn, while also providing a breathable skin that allows the hay to dry through natural ventilation. Additionally, the bamboo skin provides an important structural resiliency in relation to the mobile farm equipment. Because bamboo is a large-scale ‘grass’ with fused growth nodes located along its length, the plant material can absorb accidental bumps with farm equipment – incurring only localized splinter damage that springs back into shape without compromising the integrity of the entire stalk. The bamboo stalks are tethered together in three assembly layers through galvanized re-bar wire ties that are tightened by hand-twisting with an awl. This simple assembly process allows for adjustment of the building lattice skin as the bamboo stalks dry. The wire tie loop ends are left exposed & extended as a secondary wall texture visible at close range. Since Barn ‘B’ is a covered open-air structure vulnerable to wind-uplift forces, the concrete drainage channels below its roof eaves also function as a counterweight through an interlocking detail with the column concrete footings below grade. BUILDING ENVELOPE & MATERIALS: A particular focus on recycled and locally/regionally sourced materials informed the choice of construction systems and finishes. Of the total building material cost, 11.9% contains pre- and post-consumer recycled content and 44.2% of the total site & building material value is regionally extracted within a 500-mile radius of the project site. 54% of the wood used is FSC certified. During construction, 80.9% of material waste was recycled and diverted from landfills.


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