Pole barns became popular in the 1930s as an inexpensive way to build durable, versatile storage buildings. Pole barn design was simple, construction could be done quickly, and — perhaps most importantly — an abundant supply of surplus utility poles meant framing out a pole barn was remarkably inexpensive. Today, business owners are designing pole barns for a multitude of purposes. And homeowners are enthusiastically embracing the unique properties of pole barn design for its energy efficiency, adaptability to a wide range of settings, and distinctive look.
So let’s take a closer look at the not-so-humble pole barn home, and how a skilled pole barn engineer can transform an efficient building method into an amazing place to live.
The 4 critical ways a pole barn engineer works their magic
To understand what a structural engineer who specializes in pole barns can do for you, you first need a basic grasp of how pole barn design differs from conventional stick-built architecture. The key difference begins with the posts themselves. Concrete reinforced posts buried at even spacing form the critical outer frame for the structure. When we design a pole barn, it’s the outer frame (not the internal walls or a slab) that imbues this building with its structural integrity. Walls aren’t required. Even a slab is optional. While of course, you can equip this home with flooring and walls (and probably will if you are building a home!) none of these features are required from a structural standpoint — and that allows a radical departure from a conventional home, both in physical layout and aesthetics.
Here are the four ways a pole barn engineer can design a pole barn that is intensely practical, yet filled with distinctive and dynamic potential.
1. Cost-effectiveness in pole barn design
Approached correctly, the pole framing approach is remarkably efficient from a materials consumption standpoint. When designing a pole barn, a structural engineer’s first priority will be to take full advantage of the inherent structural strength of a pole barn by spacing the poles at an optimal distance. The result? A similarly robust structure with significantly fewer building materials. Also, because this framing method leaves long open spans in walls (rather than the conventional 16 to 24-inch spaced studs found in a stick-built home), the insulation in a pole barn design building has far fewer gaps. You therefore benefit from your construction suffering minimal heat loss.
Unlike an architect, who may be unfamiliar with the unusual properties of pole barn design, a pole barn engineer will take full advantage of these cost efficiency features. And critically, they’ll perform this step at the earliest stages of blueprint development. Your pole barn engineer can ensure all the modern conveniences — electricity, HVAC, and plumbing — take full advantage of the pole barn design approach. And this is why a structurally engineered pole barn home is typically considerably more cost-efficient to run than standard construction homes.
2. Designing a pole barn with a minimal environmental footprint
At PSE Consulting Engineers, we design pole barns using green building practices — a process for construction that emphasizes a mindful use of natural resources. Our pole barn engineers in this way ensure an ecologically friendly construction methodology.
For example, if you only require a rudimentary structure — perhaps for a barn or for outdoor recreational activities — a structural engineer will be able to walk you through options for blending your pole barn with the natural environment, using neither walls nor a concrete slab. Additionally, when you combine a pole barn’s adaptable construction with a pole barn engineer’s ability to flexibly customize blueprints to many specific use cases, you gain the luxury of being able to build in many places a conventional building simply couldn’t go.
Working with a structural engineer, you can design a pole barn that’ll blend into the natural environment, and with considerably less environmental impact.
3. Distinctive and customized pole barn design
Traditional pole barn designs are built around a conventional layout — single-story and rectangular or square construction. Pole barns can offer so much more. For example, because pole barn buildings require no load-bearing internal walls, they are perfect for spacious, open-concept interior design. A pole barn engineer can also develop a blueprint customized to your unique requirements, including multiple stories and differently shaped dwellings better suited to home dwellings.
Many clients assume that interior design is where a home gains its distinctiveness. In truth, the most elegantly customized structures are the result of a collaboration between a structural engineer and a designer. By bringing a pole barn structural engineer into your design process, you can begin to make crucial design decisions far earlier — in fact, right at the planning and blueprint stage. The result is a more iteratively developed pole barn design that is uniquely crafted to complement your intended use.
A pole barn engineer offers a critical bridge between limitations imposed by traditional convention and a pole barn home’s full structural potential.
4. A pole barn engineer is your guarantee of code compliance
If a pole barn building is intended to be used as a dwelling, its construction must comply with an exacting building code encompassing structural design, building materials, and a consideration of local seismic and wind conditions. While an architect may possess a basic understanding of code compliance, a pole barn engineer can bring a far deeper comprehension of materials and building practices to bear. A structural engineer’s insights position you to sail through building inspections, but more importantly, to ensure you’ll be safe and comfortable in your new pole barn construction.
Design a pole barn you’ll be proud of
At PSE Consulting Engineers we’re particularly drawn to pole barn construction as a design approach, because structurally, aesthetically, even ecologically, the pole barn design offers several unique advantages over a stick-built home. And because our mission is to foster energy-efficient building practices, we’ve worked to take pole barn engineering to a new level, working with the natural strengths of this construction approach to build remarkably energy-efficient homes.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you build a better pole barn.