the agritect

@VELD architect, southwestern Ontario

Archive for My Work & Portfolio

A New Addition!

20140328-113322.jpg

photo credit: Lasting Impressions

For those who don’t know I now have a little baby girl to look after alongside my clients! She is a bundle of joy and cuteness! And she makes a pretty good helper!

We also finally got our new mailbox sign up. It’s been a year in the works since we moved to our new location outside Stratford. We had a mailbox up, but the snowplow took it off this winter, so it was good incentive to get the new one done properly. It has been a great little design process filled with experimentation!

VELDmailbox

under construction with our new little helper

No matter how big or small the project it starts with predesign. Setting up the goals, and defining success. You need an idea of what you want to convey and how you will make something that conveys your idea. I wanted the name of my firm to be clear to drivers as they drive past at paved country road speeds! I also wanted something modern, yet welcoming, and something a little different. I fully expect to be the talk of the neighbourhood many times over during my career!

I try not to destroy too many trees!

Then the fun part, schematic design which begins with a sketch! Or likely many sketches. Going through idea after idea until the right one shines through.

VELDmailbox sketch

the results are pretty close to the conceptual sketch

Then the details, (design development) usually what materials to use. We already had a shiny stainless steel mailbox, so I needed a contrasting material. I have been wanting to experiment with charred wood (Shou-sugi-ban) for a long time. So I took the opportunity to be a pyromaniac. Much to my husbands disapproval as I was 4 months pregnant when I felt this urge! With a bit of experimentation I finally mastered the skill and techniques of burning wood.

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Then it’s the construction stage. I recruited my sister to carve, my mother to baby sit, and my husband to assemble! I worked out the final assembly details and this is the end result.20140424-101222.jpg

Rural Revitalization Idea #1 -tobacco kiln B&B

 

BEFORE

BEFORE

As many of you probably don’t notice anymore, smoking in bars, entrances, and other places has mostly disappeared from Ontario. All you have to do is go to Europe and you will appreciate the smoke-free environments we enjoy in Canada. However, this industry shift took a very hard toll on Tobacco farmers in Ontario. In many places, these Tobacco farmers have gotten quite ingenious with the old kilns, good soils, etc. and have gone into niche markets. But many farms lay with abandoned tobacco kilns sitting empty waiting for a use! Well I have got one… Wouldn’t it be cool to renovate a farm with a few kilns and turn it into a B&B or hotel! Or even a campground! Image a landscape full of kilns all mini cottages with long-term cottagers and your weekenders! Each kiln could probably hold a small family, with a great loft bedroom! Each kiln could have a semi private porch, skylights, views of the rural landscape. Each kiln nestled between rows of vegetables and decorative plants. Each morning you could get up at the crack of dawn to help the farmer, relax in a hammock all day, or go on a day trip exploring the rural landscape.

AFTER

AFTER


I was told once that the more you share your ideas the more they come back to you. So this is part of a series called Rural Revitalization Ideas where I throw my ideas out to the universe and hope they come back to me! The series will focus on projects in rural Ontario(or anywhere) that I think (and hopefully others will too) would be cool places to add to Ontario’s rural tourism, culture, and atmosphere. Feel free to add and suggest your own or contact me if you want to pursue one of my out-of-the-box ideas!

One-handed drafting

broken collarbone

I recently broke my collarbone while playing soccer. It was a painful first week full of drugs, now its just inconvenient my arm tied up in a sling. Being one-armed has definitely gotten me out of lots of house chores (I have a wonderful husband who has looked after me and the house), but I haven't been able to slow  down at work with deadlines looming and clients to please. Thank goodness I broke my left collarbone and not my right, so I am able to continue working, although a little slower. Even as I write this post, my slow one finger typing is not keeping up with my thoughts and making me frustrated. When it comes to drafting I have missed my other hand. For anyone that has operated a computer CAD program, you know that by typing with the left and reducing mouse travel across the screen you gain a lot of efficiency. Not only am I increasing my mouse travel, I have also discovered that I am unable to draw a straight line without a second hand; a real problem for an architect! So I had to come up with a creative solution to my problem, 'how to hold the shift key while mouse clicking a straight line?'

"my pet rock "ortho"" (for those of you who don't know "ortho" is a term used in CAD to ensure lock drawing  to 90 degree angles.

I now have a new skill to add to my résumé and LinkedIn profile; one-handed drafting! Let me know if you have any alternative solutions or how long it takes for a collarbone to get better!!

One man’s waste is another man’s landscaping material

site from roof 1

In 2012 I took a slight delve into landscape architecture (while Job Captain at John MacDonald Architect inc.) and the Recycling Centre project brought out some great green ideas to their parking lot.

The parking lot&#39s first aim was to divert all the water run-off away from the combined storm sewer and allow it to infiltrate back into the soil. The design of this parking lot allows all the water from the 25year storm to infiltrate into the soil rather than enter the City&#39s sewer system. Two storage ponds filled with crushed stone and recycled ground glass allow water to reach the soil below the asphalt. The first pond connects water and runs it through an underground irrigation pipe system to water the trees in the parking lot that would not normally survive. Any overflow runs into the trench and second pond to infiltrate.

Central Irrigation trench with crushed stone and ground glass, surrounded by recycled crane rail curbs and baleboard bollards

The parking lot uses a lot of uniquely reused products. At the Niagara Recycling Centre your glass is ground into a sand material, that can be used in sandblasting. We chose to use your waste as a landscaping material (the green stuff in the photos). This saved money and gave the parking lot a personal touch. The recycling centre is located in the old E.S. Fox building which used to make wine vats. We reused scrap crane rails removed from the building to create the curbs throughout the parking lot.We also used a product from ThinkPlasticsin New Hamburg for bridges and bollards, that uses recycled bale wrap.Finally the plant finish.  We used a field of daylillys in various colours and various bloom times to ensure a lush and beautiful parking lot all summer long. Honey Locust trees line the parking lot and are good choices for their drought and salt resistance, two common characteristics of parking lots.  They also do not shed berries on the cars each year. The daylillys and honey locust trees are also salt resistant, native, and low maintenance plant choices. Along the centre infiltration trench I choose a native grass hardy to dry places as all the water was going to drain away from them.  The Parking lot is one year old now and doing well.  The daylillys should fill in this year and create a pleasant ‘green’ place to arrive every morning at work.

One man's waste is another man's landscaping material

site from roof 1

In 2012 I took a slight delve into landscape architecture (while Job Captain at John MacDonald Architect inc.) and the Recycling Centre project brought out some great green ideas to their parking lot.

The parking lot&#39s first aim was to divert all the water run-off away from the combined storm sewer and allow it to infiltrate back into the soil. The design of this parking lot allows all the water from the 25year storm to infiltrate into the soil rather than enter the City&#39s sewer system. Two storage ponds filled with crushed stone and recycled ground glass allow water to reach the soil below the asphalt. The first pond connects water and runs it through an underground irrigation pipe system to water the trees in the parking lot that would not normally survive. Any overflow runs into the trench and second pond to infiltrate.

Central Irrigation trench with crushed stone and ground glass, surrounded by recycled crane rail curbs and baleboard bollards

The parking lot uses a lot of uniquely reused products. At the Niagara Recycling Centre your glass is ground into a sand material, that can be used in sandblasting. We chose to use your waste as a landscaping material (the green stuff in the photos). This saved money and gave the parking lot a personal touch. The recycling centre is located in the old E.S. Fox building which used to make wine vats. We reused scrap crane rails removed from the building to create the curbs throughout the parking lot.We also used a product from ThinkPlasticsin New Hamburg for bridges and bollards, that uses recycled bale wrap.Finally the plant finish.  We used a field of daylillys in various colours and various bloom times to ensure a lush and beautiful parking lot all summer long. Honey Locust trees line the parking lot and are good choices for their drought and salt resistance, two common characteristics of parking lots.  They also do not shed berries on the cars each year. The daylillys and honey locust trees are also salt resistant, native, and low maintenance plant choices. Along the centre infiltration trench I choose a native grass hardy to dry places as all the water was going to drain away from them.  The Parking lot is one year old now and doing well.  The daylillys should fill in this year and create a pleasant ‘green’ place to arrive every morning at work.

Hay and Straw Storage as Insulation?

I'm sure you've heard of straw bale houses, but did you ever think that you could use your straw and hay storage as insulation for your farm buildings? Straw and Hay makes a great insulator because it is full of air pockets, air being a great thermal break that does not allow heat to be transferred to sensitive areas like inside barns where animals are living. By strategically locating hay and straw storage on your farm you can save cooling and heating costs for barns and houses depending on your farm needs.

Winter above, summer below, Image from Barns and Outbuildings and How to Building them

This technique dates back to the pioneers who settled and started farming.  A simple wooden structure would be placed in the pastures and covered with straw of hay. This would then provide shelter from the sun in the summer, and be a supplementary feeding for animals out to pasture.

Winter-hay and/or straw storage, copyright Krista Duynisveld 2009

summer-no hay or straw storage, copyright Krista Duynisveld 2009

We can also take this principle and apply it to a winter situation.  As hay and straw are collected in through the summer and stored for use during the winter, strategic storage can provide wind breaks for barns in the winter. Keeping the prevailing cold winter winds away from the barn walls can significantly reduce heating requirements for the sensitive chickens or piglets. By also adding an extra layer of insulation the heating that is put into the barn stays inside longer.  Not only that, but the convenience of having straw or hay located close to the feeding and bedding area is a bonus.  As the hay and straw get used through the winter you are left with an open barn again that can take advantage of natural ventilation and prevailing summer winds.

With a little bit of planning this simple strategy could save you money on heating and ventilation costs over the long term. And this strategy costs less to install than bigger fans and bigger heaters up front. Please feel free to add comments and critiques on how this might be adapted to work for you on your farm.

About the Agritect

They say you can take the girl away from the farm, but you can't take the farm away from the girl.  I left the family farm in 2002 to pursue a career in architecture and came full circle in 2008 when I started my master's thesis on architecture and agriculture: agritecture.

A few definitions (taken from Google definition):

ag·ri·cul·ture/ˈagriˌkəlCHər/

 
Noun:
The science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Middlesex County.  As a child I was fully immersed in the family farm. I very quickly realized that farmers are more than just farmers, they are contemporary Renaissance Men, understanding business, accounting, management, science, biology, ecology, mechanics, electronics, buildings to name only a few.  But farming is not only a science, its a lifestyle choice.  Its hard work! But is also the fresh air, the morning dew, the view over the land you work, seeing the first sprouts break through the crust of the field. Farmers are the caretakers of the land and the architects of the rural landscape.

ar·chi·tec·ture/ˈärkiˌtekCHər/

 
Noun:
  1. The art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.
  2. The style of a building with regard to a specific period, place, or culture.

The transition into architecture was not difficult (except for the city life). The architect is not unlike the farmer, they too are a Renaissance men (or woman in this case), skilled in many disciplines and big picture thinking. Using creative problem solving skills, the architect can think about a design in many different ways (including ones you might not think of) in order to find the best solution. Architects are trained  to manage many disciplines and many streams of ideas, problems, complex systems, and information. My education trained me in structure, ventilation, lighting, electricity, costing, etc. Not only are they trained in technical systems, but they also integrate culture, beauty, site and user specific needs into their thinking about buildings and design. All this information is then combined into one simple solution that assists the users of the building in terms of budget, energy costs, ease of use, and pleasantness of experience.  That is a good architect.

ag·ri·tec·ture/ˈagriˌtekCHər/

Noun:
  1. The art or practice of designing and constructing farming buildings with regard to the specific place, culture, and science of farming.

When I began the undertaking of my thesis on agriculture and architecture, I had an advantage; I knew the story from both sides.  I understood that a barn, house, or farm design, needed to be absolutely practical, it had to make economic sense, but I also knew how to make it energy efficient, personal, and as moving as the traditional bank barns. After the completion of my thesis I knew that working in the rural and agriculture sector is what I wanted to do. I am the agritect.

I am currently practicing architecture as an intern architect in the Waterloo Region and will soon become a fully licensed architect.

This blog is a resource, portfolio, and exploration of the sustainable relationship of agriculture and architecture. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in working with me.