What’s New at the Farm?

Wider doors, larger and more sophisticated equipment, and roof-only structures are agricultural building trends “Farm buildings are the farmer’s factory,” wrote agricultural engineer E.A. Fowler in 1913. In spite of this, farm building designs have been generally slow to evolve, in part because of their considerable expense. Also, some farmers and ranchers have built their… Continue reading What’s New at the Farm?

Wider doors, larger and more sophisticated equipment, and roof-only structures are agricultural building trends

“Farm buildings are the farmer’s factory,” wrote agricultural engineer E.A. Fowler in 1913. In spite of this, farm building designs have been generally slow to evolve, in part because of their considerable expense. Also, some farmers and ranchers have built their own disposable structures using little innovation. But conventional wood farm buildings, the mainstay of a farmer’s factory, have slowly evolved and developed over the years. Increased and advanced use of metal has been part of this transition providing farmers with functional, attractive, expandable farm and agricultural storage buildings.

Wider doors

Larger, more functional and easier-to-operate doors, and the framed openings for them, are an agricultural building trend. “Agricultural buildings have become larger with wider doors to accommodate and store larger equipment,” says J.R. Prather, president, Lucas Metal Works Inc., Orchelata, Okla. “Equipment is getting more expensive and larger to cover more area and do it faster. If a farmer can do a job in two-thirds the amount of time he normally does, he has saved on manpower and fuel costs. They can’t get new equipment into the old metal equipment sheds. I’ve had conversations with customers. They would rather have bi-fold or a hydraswing door over a sliding door to keep the elements out. Sliding doors don’t seal up very well.” Hydraulic doors, which lift out, and bi-fold doors, which lift up and out, operate mechanically, rather than manually, saving time and effort.

Jim Davis, operations manager at Wilson Industrial Doors, Elkhorn, Wis., agrees saying:”We have definitely seen a trend in the agricultural market for buildings that can be opened not only the full width, but on both ends so they can pull equipment straight through the building. A traditional top-hung rolling barn door, usually centered in the end of the building, can make it difficult to use all of the space in the building. Being able to open up the complete end wall gives you access and some additional shade as a bonus. Whether it is a bi-fold door or a single-panel hydraulic door, the increased opening gives the farmer the full usage of all of the square footage in his building without having to scale down his equipment.”

Clear span and roof only

An increased demand for more versatile and adaptable agricultural buildings has birthed two notable trends in the steel building industry: clear span and roof only. “Buildings utilizing the clear span framing system give farmers and ranchers the space they need to effectively maneuver

equipment by the use of a column-free framing design,” says Barry Clifton, sales manager at Heritage Building Systems, North Little Rock, Ark. “The clear span’s frame style requires no interior support columns, which leaves the inside of the building open and without barriers that may hinder the movement of large machines or the rearrangement of floor plans.”

Roof-only metal agricultural structures are another solution being seen more and more on farms. “They can be completely open all the way up to the roof line on all sides, or they can partially sided as required for protection from wind or other elements,” says Clifton. “Roof-only structures can be designed with interior support columns that can be spaced according to the customer’s particular specifications. Or, if desired, the clear span system is available for roof-only structures. These buildings offer the ultimate in customization for those needing partially or completely open structures to store farm equipment or hay, which is why they continue to gain popularity among agricultural professionals.”

Protecting the investment

Farm equipment is indeed getting more sophisticated and expensive. New combines can range from $300,000 to $500,000, and new and improved metal agricultural buildings are there to protect them. “Who would have imagined tractors steering themselves 20 years ago?” asks Jon Heibel, corporate communications manager at Behlen Manufacturing Co., Columbus, Neb. “But now, thanks to guidance and automated steering systems, they’re doing just that. Metal construction [providers] need to keep in mind the sophistication level of today’s agricultural producers. The industry needs to remember it’s speaking to a prospect that is particularly savvy at maximizing their investment, whether it be its machinery or a building.”

It’s not just the machinery that has grown. “Farms have grown in size over the past 10 years,” says Erin Sullivan, general sales manager, Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb. “The idea that there are fewer and fewer ‘family’ farms and more and more ‘corporate’ farms is certainly a real thing. Consequently, the size of buildings going on farms has increased considerably. Equipment purchases have also contributed to this as farmers have upgraded to larger tractors, combines and planters to handle growing acreages. More and more farmers see the value of storing this expensive equipment inside. Pole barns have always had a strong presence in the agricultural market but buildings have increased in size to accommodate larger equipment, so metal buildings are now the economical

There are many reasons agricultural professionals recognize the advantage of steel over other materials to protect their investments. Steel is much more resistant to the elements, such as wind and rain, than wood or other conventional building materials.

“There is no need to worry about termite infestation or other damaging insects with steel,” says Clifton. “Additionally, wood can warp, and will eventually begin to rot. As long as a steel building is coated with a quality primer and/or paint, it will last for generations, with less potential for costly maintenance and replacement of structural components throughout the life of the building.”

Energy efficiency and beyond

Residential and commercial buildings aren’t alone in aiming for improved energy efficiency. Agricultural buildings are going green and farmers are using the very agent that grows their crops to do this: the sun. Solar power can offset the maintenance costs associated with farming. “Agricultural buildings are taking advantage of solar panels that are more cost effective to power positions of the farm and equipment,” says Michael Lassner, president, Allied Steel Buildings Inc., Orlando, Fla. “Not only are these panels on the buildings, but you are also seeing farmers segmenting portions of their land for solar commodity. Some are shifting a portion of their land to solar which may yield more than certain crops.”

Prather affirms the trend of more energy efficient metal buildings as being real, saying: “As energy costs increase, the need for buildings to become more energy efficient has increased as well. Buildings with thicker insulation are being quoted by our sales team.”

Energy efficiency and the other above trends are just some of many agricultural metal building trends being witnessed today. “These trends range from dry storage, green material (recyclable steel), and the longevity of the metal structure itself,” Prather adds. “Further opportunities can also be the ability to store commodities for longer periods before they are sold thus maximizing the profits for the goods. These advances in technology will help the industry by developing new systems that can be incorporated in the metal construction to accomplish anything from increased yield, quality or just by keeping the commodities in the United States instead of exporting so much of them. All in all, the metal construction industry has the ability to help the agricultural industry keep thriving as it has for many years in the United States.”


Agricultural market trends

Metal Construction News asked two industry experts their opinion on the agricultural metal building market.

 “As the economy has been on an upswing, the market for steel agricultural buildings has increased over the past six to 12 months. We’ve seen the market increase not only with additional storage structures for farms, but buildings for businesses and individuals in the equine industry as well. The equine has been busy refurbishing old riding arenas and building new. We’ve noticed the market for these luxury items has been growing throughout the United States and Canada, with a strong focus on Florida and the Southeast in general.” Benjamin Meister, vice president, Allied Steel Buildings Inc., Orlando, Fla.

 “The agricultural industry has always been a roller coaster ride. Prosperity seems to come and go. Looking to the future it seems that we are more likely than ever to see a stable agricultural market in the United States. This is largely due to our role in the international community. Our farmers, chemical companies, seed companies and equipment manufacturers have positioned themselves as leaders in the industry around the world. Metal buildings will continue to be the low-cost construction solution for this industry for many years to come.” Erin Sullivan, general sales manager, Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb.