From Horse Barn to Wellness Center, Part 4: Sourcing Structural Lumber


Following the journey to remodel a horse barn into a commercial wellness center on a Midwestern property zoned for agriculture. This multi-part seriesrecounts 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.

The first page of a set of building plans normally is the site plan. There were several site plans for this project on file with the township already, so I decided to take the site plan that the Township Board had already seen and update it with the new information. I filled out the form that accompanied the site plan and tried to get a hold of the person at the township who was responsible for signing off on the updated site plan.

The person who was responsible for signing our conditions of approval list was a part-time subcontractor for the township who was also the Zoning Administrator for several other townships in the area. This meant that we had to place several phone calls until he answered and then he agreed to receive the paperwork by email. He reviewed the site plan and looked over the list of conditions to see if we had done everything. Knowing that a few of the items on the list were to be completed near the end of the project, he signed off and that got us one step closer to submitting the paperwork for the building permit. 

Sourcing ‘Select Structural’ Lumber

I called the structural engineer one more time to discuss a few specific areas of the project to make sure that I understood everything. One of the callouts that kept catching my eye was that every piece of lumber that I drew from the rafters to the floor joists was a grade of lumber called “select structural”. I had not heard of this grade of lumber before and the engineer explained that the lumber was stronger than conventional framing lumber. He said that we needed that grade of lumber to meet the floor and roof loads required by the commercial building code.

Because I was the builder on this project also, I asked him where he normally got this grade of lumber. “I don’t normally buy lumber, so I am not sure where,” the engineer told me. My immediate thought was that we had hit another snag in this process. I decided to send a message to our lumber representative to see if he knew where we could get this select structural lumber.

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