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Modernizing the Agricultural Building

Custom metal buildings provide flexibility for larger facilities

Modern Ag May18 1
Photo courtesy of Chief Buildings

For the agricultural industry, metal buildings provide an efficient and economical solution to a customer’s needs. Custom-designed metal building facilities can utilize a variety of design options to perform the necessary functions for the agricultural industry. Whether a customer is in need of general farm and maintenance shops, machine and equipment storage, grain or commodity storage, the flexibility and large spans of metal buildings can provide whatever layout is required.

In today’s market, metal building manufacturers are seeing a variety of different types of agricultural buildings being requested. PJ Bogensberger, district manager at Oklahoma City-based Star Building Systems, says the most popular types of buildings are dairy buildings, cattle confinement for the beef industry, chicken barns and laying facilities, and farm shops.

Rob VanHorn, sales service associate who specializes in the agricultural market for Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb., says machinery storage/shop buildings and light commercial are the most common types of buildings being requested. “There are a few that incorporate office space either on the interior or by utilizing a smaller building attached to the larger structure,” he adds.

For Marcus Construction, an authorized Varco Pruden builder in Willmar, Minn., chemical storage and load-out facilities are the most popular agricultural buildings. “These facilities typically house liquid chemical, seed and seed-treating equipment and oftentimes office and training space are also incorporated into these buildings,” says Rob Henderson, business development at Marcus Construction.

Also becoming more popular is covered flat grain storage, which is replacing outside ground piles. “The grain is kept in better condition, [the farmers] don’t have to move the entire pile in a covered facility,” Henderson says. “This method of storage is less expensive per bushel than bins or slip-form concrete.”

Photo courtesy of Chief Buildings

Expanding and Renovating

Depending on what a client’s needs are, some owners are opting to renovate their existing buildings rather than build a new facility. However, as Bogensberger notes, “Renovating existing buildings can be almost as expensive as a new building.”

Steve Becker, vice president of sales and marketing at Behlen Building Systems in Columbus, Neb., notes that he has found owners are erecting new buildings to support the larger equipment being used in agricultural settings.

Additionally, VanHorn says they have seen a fair share of owners making smaller renovations, replacing older metal panels with newer ones to change colors, add insulation or just spruce things up.

Larger Buildings

While changes and innovations in the agricultural industry may not be as widely reported as those in other industries, plenty of advances have been going on in recent years. For example, the increase of cage-free eggs is requiring new facilities. Bogensberger says the new cage-free facilities are quite different from the conventional egg laying buildings. And with the dairy industry incorporating more robotic equipment including robotic milkers, farm shops are getting larger to accommodate the larger equipment.

The move toward larger facilities isn’t just limited to the dairy industry, as Bogensberger adds that they’ve been seeing more deep pit barns and the swine industry seems to be building larger facilities. “As time has moved on, the increased size of farm equipment has increased the need of larger door openings, which in turn increases the building size, those along with personal preferences has turned to much larger metal farm buildings,” VanHorn says.

Photo courtesy of Star Buildings

Larger facilities to accommodate larger equipment means larger doors and entries, and as Becker says, they’ve seen an increase in hydraulic doors. Additionally, he says, the ability to easily integrate an overhead crane into the structure is important to some of their customers.

Modern agricultural buildings aren’t just for livestock or storage anymore. “We are seeing more and more agricultural buildings being insulated, heated, lined out on the interior, office spaces, break rooms, even a few with the corner cave in place for their favorite refreshment and get together,” VanHorn says.

Henderson adds that chemical, liquid and seed facilities are requiring 24-hour load bays, meaning the facility will be heated with a conventional, forced-air heater and in-floor zone heating. “Agricultural chemical/liquid/seed buildings are getting larger as companies need to store their products for an entire season since products aren’t as readily available in-season as they have been in the past,” he explains. “We are finding the buildings need to be heated and more user friendly. Customers are wanting to pick up products anytime they need it, so many facilities are now designed with 24-hour load bays.”

Additionally, Becker says that thermal efficiency is important to the agricultural market. “We are seeing highly sophisticated insulation systems being installed,” he says. “Efficient fans for air circulation and prismatic skylights offering higher quality daylighting are also becoming more prevalent.”


One of the biggest challenges in constructing agricultural facilities is the soil condition. “Many of the new agronomy centers are being constructed in the country and often times, the soil does not have a good base and some type of pilings are needed to support the building,” Henderson says.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Construction

In addition to finding the right location and building size to fit the owner’s budget, Bogensberger says proper ventilation can provide a challenge. Adds Becker, “Builders and contractors are seeing higher tech customers with specific needs including thermal efficiency and energy-efficient products such as LED lighting, fans for proper air circulation and prismatic skylights.”

“Challenges happen everyday in both designing and building,” VanHorn explains. “In the metal building industry there is so much that has already been done, and so many more fresh ideas to come. It's just a matter of the dream along with the ability to make it happen.”

A Vital Industry

Since the agricultural industry is vital to the overall marketplace, Bogensberger notes agricultural construction seems to weather all global economics. “Livestock buildings are considered a piece of equipment in the agricultural community and need to work to each farmer’s specific needs,” he explains. “Depending on the industry, [buildings] are getting larger, taller and more technological. The agricultural community does their homework before making decisions … they are always looking to do it better.”

And, Henderson notes, with agricultural facilities requiring heated areas, steel buildings are becoming more competitive when compared to traditional pole buildings. “The insulation and interior sheeting in a wooden facility adds a lot to the price for materials and labor,” he says. “Steel buildings have a longer life span and tend to withstand storms better than conventional wood structures. Also, as we are continuing to see the need for rolling stock storage, it’s crucial to have the larger clear spans needed with no center support to accommodate these large pieces of equipment.”

Change is constantly taking place and is very exciting, VanHorn adds. “If you think of think of the ole farm buildings as you knew them as a kid, take a look around the countryside have a look at the newer agricultural buildings, you can't miss them. Some of these buildings are not typical at all, some are even called home.”