Although they met as graduate students at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Roberto de Leon, AIA, and Ross Primmer, AIA, decided to practice in Louisville, Ky. Inevitably, the barn typology of the region has influenced the work of De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop, including its design for the Mason Lane Farm Operations Facility. This facility, which provides space for servicing and storing farm equipment, as well as seasonal storage for grain and hay, is a contradiction in the countryside: agricultural structures that house equipment used to work prime farmland but that also have a reduced environmental impact.

The architects gained LEED Silver certification by carefully siting the buildings, avoiding complicated technical systems, and focusing on passive strategies. Two structuresdubbed Barn A and Barn Bare angled to encourage stormwater drainage along pitched, pervious surfaces into nearby rain gardens. This V-configuration allows a tree line to act as a natural windbreak between the buildings and conceals the barns from view of a nearby road.

Maintaining dark sky conditions was a priority since the farm serves as an astronomical observation site for the University of Louisville. De Leon & Primmer aimed lighting towards the center of the courtyard. CFLs are connected to a timer system that features manual override, allowing for a quick switch between farming and star-gazing modes.

The architects employed passive strategies and humble, low-maintenance materials for both barns. The enclosed, 7,540-square-foot Barn A (left in the photo above) features a prefabricated wood truss frame clad in corrugated metal wall panels. On the interior, a grid of utilitarian materials including Homasote, OSB, and particle board is refined; nailing guidelines created a decorative pattern, eliminating the need for finish materials. A radiant heating system is embedded in the concrete floor slab and fueled by a boiler that burns wood debris from the farm to maintain comfortable temperatures for workers, even when the barn doors are open.

In contrast, the 9,160-square-foot Barn B (right in the photo above) features an airy envelope, comprised of multilayered bamboo latticework. The architects drew inspiration from the stacked pattern of square hay bales that are stored within. Though bamboo seems an unlikely choice for a barn, it was harvested only 35 miles from the site and proves a breathable and resilient material, withstanding the occasional ding from farm equipment. The twisted, galvanized rebar ties that hold the bamboo together can also be adjusted with an awl as the stalks expand or contract.

De Leon & Primmer’s practical approach worked: energy-modeling software measured a 34.2 percent reduction in energy use over traditional construction for the facility, with cost savings of 34.8 percent.