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The Big Green Barn: One Man’s Personal Journey to Salvage a 1910 Barn (Part 2)

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:03am

The following is the second of a four-part installment of one man’s personal journey to salvage a 1910 barn in Southwest Michigan while keeping it as green as possible.

The Big Green Barn Catch up on last week’s installment here.

Enter Sam and Peggy Stitt of Great Lakes Barn Preservation, a 60-year-old family business whose mission is to salvage, repair and restore old barns. A week after I closed, Sam came out to the property on a Saturday so we could meet and talk about the possibility of working together. We also had to see if the barn was worth salvaging. I showed him some rough drawings of how I envisioned the conversion and ?shared some of my plans of making the barn “green.”

After about an hour and a half Sam turned to me and said, “Well, I’m going to have to talk with my wife Peggy, but I think we’d really like to work with you on this project. The 100 year old timber frame is still in really good shape and can be salvaged”.

I got a call from Sam the following week, he and Peggy would love to work on the project. They would come down and live on the property in trailers while they worked… they’d be able to start in two weeks.

TOW WEEKS? AAAIIIIIEEEEEE!!! Not something I was expecting to hear, but in my gut I knew it was right and I started getting everything in line so we could start immediately. Designs were drawn, permits were pulled, and subs were lined up.

After I had my plans, (which were done in record time by my wonderful designer; Marla Bruler), I met with a rep from Porter Corp to talk about using SIPS (structural insulated panels) as a reinforcing shell for the timbers.

SIPS are ingenious. Basically, it’s a piece of dense foam sandwiched between two pieces of OSB (oriented strand board). They come in various thicknesses from 4” and up, have pre-cut channels for plumbing and electric, are customized to accommodate windows, doors, etc. and have a phenomenal R-value rating. (A measure of the capacity of a material, such as insulation, to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value of a material, the greater its insulating capacity.)

What I really loved about using SIPS is that it eliminates a lot of time and waste that would normally occur in conventional stick framing. The panels for my barn, which measures 28’x 54’ and has a gambrel roof, took under four weeks to manufacture and were entirely installed in two days time. How’s that for efficient?

September, October and November were busy months. Once the SIPS were in production I went and ordered my high efficiency windows and doors from a local retailer. The Great Lakes Barn crew began dismantling, stacking and cleaning the timbers and old barn siding for future use. I sent my bids out and then met and finalized plans with my plumbing, heating and electrical contractors. To be truthful, I never ended up taking the lowest bid. I kept referring back to my “rules” and was very strict in regards to using craftsmen who understood what I was trying to accomplish and wouldn’t have to travel far. In the long run, I will end up saving on the energy and giving back to the earth.

Check back next week for part three of our series as things start to heat up.

Written by: John Braun

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