California equipment barn operates off the grid

Clayton & Little designs an award-winning, 21st century agri-industrial building in West Paso Robles, California, that operates off the grid. Photo courtesy Casey Dunn
Clayton & Little designs an award-winning, 21st century agri-industrial building in West Paso Robles, California, that operates off the grid.
Photo courtesy Casey Dunn

Designed by Clayton & Little, the Saxum Vineyard Equipment Barn in West Paso Robles, California, is a 21st century agri-industrial building that is self-sufficient and operates independently from the energy grid, maximizing the structure’s survivability and resilience.

The agricultural storage structure rests at the toe of the 20-ha (50-acre) James Berry Vineyard and the adjacent winery.

Designed as a modern pole barn, the reclaimed oil field drill stem pipe structure’s primary objectives are to provide an armature for a photovoltaic (PV) roof system which offsets more than 100 percent of power demands on the winery and to provide covered open-air storage for farming vehicles and their implements, workshop and maintenance space, and storage for livestock supplies.

Constructed to maximize cross ventilation, daylight, and solar energy, the structure holds a laminated glass PV roof system that produces 1/3 more power than needed (roughly 87,000 kWh per year), eliminating the dependence of grid tied power for the winery and the vineyard irrigation well pumps through net metering. Utilizing the laminated glass solar modules as both the actual primary roof and the renewable energy generator, the barn offsets any extra costs to construct an additional roof with separately mounted crystalline solar panels.

Minimalistic and salvaged materials were selected to withstand the particularly dry climate, for regional availability, long-term durability, and to minimize the need for regular maintenance. The primary column and roof structure is constructed of welded schedule 40 reclaimed drill stem pipes, in 51, 76, and 89 mm (2, 3, and 3.5 in.) diameters, and left to weather naturally. The lateral load resisting system consists of diaphragm rod cross-bracing and vertical tension-only cross-braced frames.

Laminated glass solar modules, serving as both the solar system and the roofing, are supported on wood and Type WT steel flitch purlins welded to the pipe trusses. A 203-mm (8-in.) diameter schedule 40 half-pipe gutter is situated at the low-end of the roof to accommodate future rainwater harvesting. Perforated 22-gauge steel panels provide shading and filtered privacy to equipment bays.

The barn doors are clad in weathered steel off-cuts that were saved for reuse from the adjacent winery shoring walls, reused in a ‘calico’ pattern to fit the oddly shaped panels to tube steel-framed door leafs. Storage boxes are skinned with stained cedar siding with the interiors clad with unfinished rotary cut Douglas fir plywood. Foundations limit the amount of cast-in-place concrete by including pervious gravel paving for all open vehicle storage bays and livestock pens, maximizing the amount of rainwater that is filtered back through the soil into the watershed. Additionally, providing an engineered earthwork program allowed the structural foundation requirements to be more efficient with the utilization of cast-in-place concrete.

The project received a 2019 National Small Project Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

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