What a Load!

I meet customers all the time who are interested in housing some of their most prized possessions. At Castlebrook Barns, we have built housing and barns for almost every type of horse, as well as other animals, including Alpacas, Llamas, Owls, Lions, Tigers and yes, I am going to say it … Bears (Sorry. I couldn’t resist since it is true.) While planning out their structures, we take a substantial amount of time discussing every fine point of the animals’ care and use. Proper turnout, grooming, ventilation, stall maintenance, animal safety, and even the height of feed mangers are discussed in such detail that it would befit the most adamant watchmaker. After every conceivable detail is gone through, we then get to the loads of the building. It is at that point in time that everything seems to become rushed, almost as though the loads are an afterthought. Now I hate to disagree with any of my customers, but I must be honest, THAT’S WRONG!!! Remember when I started this article what I said about housing your most prized possessions? Well, I have heard some of our clients say, “It’s not a big deal. After all, it’s just a barn.” Just a barn? Why not just take a knife and cut out my heart! The truth is that you are in fact housing your most valued possessions in this structure. Do not be misled, when I say prized and/or valued. It does not just mean horses or livestock. It could your vintage car collection, or more importantly, it could be a loved one like your wife, husband, or child. Remember, Mother Nature has no strict timetable on when she is going to strike, and you don’t want to be a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. During wintertime I see the same issues coming up year after year from poorly designed structures (certainly not a Castlebrook barn.) Whether it is a caved in roof from too much snow or a barn that is ripped off of its foundation and flipped over, it all stems from the same problem: improper loads factored into the design of the structure. So what is my advice? Take care in properly designing loads into your structure. The major points are as follows: Wind- Wind is a barn killer. As I discussed above, it routinely rips poorly designed barns from their foundations. You will typically see design loads that call out for a 70MPH wind load. Castlebrook’s modular barns are built to a far more stringent 90MPH wind load. We will not tolerate injury to anyone or anything simply because we choose to cheap out on the size of materials. If it takes 3/16” columns to do it correctly and have our barns stand sturdy against the wind, then that’s what we use. No inferior gauge material used here. Nonetheless, your wind load may be even greater, such as in special wind areas or hurricane locales. The bottom line is, design your structure with sufficient foundation and structural materials to resist the lateral wind loads that are going to hit it. When the time comes, simply crossing your fingers that the product will hold up is just too late. Snow and Gravity loads- Assuming that “It does not snow all that much in my area” is a mistake. Let’s say that each year you get a max of 6” of snow on your roof. Let’s also say that every 30 years you get a monster storm that drops 2’ of snow on your roof. I can’t tell you how many times a customer will design around the 6” number because that is the norm. Here is the issue; barns don’t average things out like that. The barn only knows that moment in time, and if the design can’t support the extra 2’ load, it’s going to go one way, and that is down! Increasing most roof loads is a relatively inexpensive upgrade. It is important to insure your valued cherished possessions and loved ones, and your barn roof load is no place to cut corners. Seismic- If you are in earthquake country you don’t want your barn to be like Elvis, “All shook up.” Rigid structures tend to break and crack in a seismic event. Steel frames (like Castlebrook’s) are more malleable, and while they will shake during a quake, they are more likely to revert to their original form once the seismic activity has stopped. This is an important part of every Castlebrook structure and why we only design to a seismic Zone 4 Code (the most stringent seismic code.) When planning your structure, make sure that you contemplate seismic activities so that when the quake stops, you don’t find a hunk of rubble in your yard. These are some, but not all, of the structural considerations that you should give to designing your barn. If you are dealing with any manufacturer or builder that has the philosophy “It’s just a barn” without proper consideration of the loads, my recommendation is…RUN!!! Speaking on a personal level, I have my prized possessions as well, and it starts with my wife and two children. Whenever we talk about severe weather or earthquakes, my direction to them is always the same: “If it gets bad, get in the barn. It’s the safest structure that we have.” (And, yes, I include my home in that as well.) I give the same advice for you, your family and your prized possessions. Get in the barn, and make sure it’s a Castlebrook. Thanks for spending some time with me, Spencer Graffam President, Castlebrook Barns

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