What a barn can become

Having three generations living on a farm with neither a clear task division nor a vision for the future can get messy very quickly. New possibilities opened up when two neighbors and us connected to one central biomass heating. It gave an opportunity to reassess the spaces in the farm buildings. This led to a profound reorganization, beginning with creating a workshop space in the old wood storage/trailer garage which will become the center for transforming the farm.

Halfway through cleaning up

First thing to do is to clean up the space. Most of the firewood went to a family friend who was very delighted for the support, especially before winter. We sold the trailer with a bit of sorrow, it served over 30 years, built by my dad but it also has always been too big for our old Ford tractor from 1968 and we felt it was time to adjust the scale.

We replaced the column in the center of the room with a glue-lam wooden beam. On one end it is resting on a wall but on the other end we had to make a custom support from steel profiles which we bolted into a concrete slab. This was essential to free the space for later but also for the immediate works ahead.

The windows and fixed glazing are recycled from a school renovation. All the frames are made of good quality wood profiles and fitted with double glazing. First the old glue had to be removed, then the paint a bit sanded and eventually we applied grey paint. Only the opposing windows, south and north, can be opened to allow cross ventilation, in the east there is fixed glazing.

The wooden facade had been removed and replaced by a vertically perforated brick wall. For one it allowed for an easy adjustment of the perforation but also to have a good sound barrier towards the neighbors. The perforated bricks also insulate quite well since later on we will need a little oven. The horizontal window seems very low to the ground but actually allows to look outside while standing at the work bench inside.

Since we wanted a rear ventilated cladding for the new facade, the fixed glazing has been glued into a zinc coated frame made of steel profiles. The frame is screwed onto an oak frame fixed to the wall. Luckily we also have some forest which allowed us to use home grown oak for the frame. Later the glazing will be in the same plane as the facade.

Inspired by Japanese architect and artist Terunobu Fujimori we chose an old technique to preserve the wood for the cladding. Yakisugi or shou-sugi-ban has been used for centuries to make wood resistant to climatic influences. We tried different techniques but in the end the quickest and most efficient way to do it was the construction of „chimneys“ which we set on fire with a gas burner until they burnt by themselves. After taking the bundles apart the sides had to be charred as well. Having chosen unsorted planks with a variety of widths allowed us to avoid cutting to make them fit around the glazing.

Landscaping had to be done next since it allowed to safely use a ladder and some scaffolding for finishing the rest of the facade. From an old demolished house from the neighborhood we were able to salvage sand stones to build dry walls at the corners of the barn. Because the fixed glazing and the facade are going down very close to the ground we had to ensure proper drainage with a strip of gravel which is separated from the earth by a steel band.

On the first floor the wall structure is made of 5 x 20cm planks clad in 2,5 cm planks. Followed by a layer of vapor barrier, then vertical bars which allow the air flow all the way from the ground behind the facade and exit at the end of each channel through holes between the outer cladding. These holes are covered with a metal mesh to avoid insects entering. Behind the outer cladding is a layer of waterproof fabric.

Eastern Facade in Summer 2018

To be continued…

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