From Horse Barn to Wellness Center, Part 2: Structural Assessment


Following the journey to remodel a horse barn into a commercial wellness center on a Midwestern property zoned for agriculture. This multi-part series recounts the considerations, pitfalls and ultimate successes of a green-building project with an ambitious scope to bring a defunct farm building new life as a natural health destination.

We covered project scoping and initial interactions with the County building inspector in Part 1. The building inspector needed to see drawings of the horse barn in order to make his assessment recommendations, but we had discovered that the architect had only drawn a few pages of the project, which included elevation drawings and basic interior layouts — no wall sections or foundation plans and very few dimensions to review.

I talked to the owners about the drawings that we needed and we all agreed that I would take over the drawings and complete a full set of building plans. I normally draw the building plans for all of our residential projects, so taking on a design job like this was very exciting to me. Before I got too far with the drawings, I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what the building inspector needed to see.

The building inspector worked only one day a week at the township hall, and that meant that I had to wait a week to get into talk to him. In the meantime, the owners contacted a local structural engineer that they knew and put me in touch with him. I set up a meeting at the barn with this engineer and ended up being relieved that our meeting was before the meeting I had set up with the building inspector.

I wanted to be certain that the barn was going to meet all of the requirements for a commercial project in case the building inspector brought up the residential versus commercial conversation again. The structural engineer had told me on the phone that he had vast experience in re-purposing barns and that he would be able to tell me quite quickly if the barn we wanted to re-purpose was going to work or not.

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