U.S. Building of the Week

Saxum Vineyards Equipment Barn

Clayton & Little Architects
29. July 2019
Photo: Casey Dunn Photography

Wineries are often a setting for high-profile architecture, enough that numerous books are devoted to them. This equipment barn for Saxum Vineyards in California's San Luis Obispo County shows that architectural attention can also be given to the industrial structures that lie beyond the tasting rooms. Clayton & Little Architects answered a few questions about their project for Saxum Vineyards.

Project: Saxum Vineyards Equipment Barn, 2018
Location: Paso Robles, California, USA
Client: Saxum Vineyards 
Architect: Clayton & Little Architects, San Antonio, TX
  • Design Principal: Brian Korte, AIA
  • Project Manager: Derek Klepac, AIA
  • Project Team: Josh Nieves, Brandon Tharp
Structural Engineer: SSG Structural Engineers, San Luis Obispo, CA (Michael Parolini S.E, Joe Klimczyk P.E.)
Lighting Designer: Clayton & Little Architects
Contractor: Rarig Construction, San Luis Obispo, CA
Solar Basis of Design: Pacific Energy Company, San Luis Obispo, CA
Solar Engineering: Power and Communications Engineering, San Luis Obispo, CA
Site Area: 50 acres
Building Area: 2,340 sf
Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?

The relationship with the client, Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards, started in 2006, working with Epoch Estate Wines on a new winery in Paso Robles, California. Justin Smith was consulting for Epoch at the time and mentioned that he too wanted to build a new winery someday. Years later, Saxum Winery was completed in 2016 and this little barn was the next follow-up project to enable on-site storage for farming equipment.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
Please provide an overview of the project.

Located in the Templeton Gap area of West Paso Robles, this structure’s primary objectives were to provide an armature for a solar renewable energy system to power the adjacent winery and vineyard irrigation wells, and to provide covered open-air storage for farming equipment, workshop and maintenance space, and storage for livestock supplies. This simple agricultural storage structure rests at the toes of the 50 acre James Berry Vineyard and the adjacent Saxum winery sitting just over 800 feet away.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography

Imagined as a modern pole barn, this structure is completely self-sufficient and operates almost independently from the energy grid, maximizing the structure’s survivability and resilience. Designed to harnesses the local climate to maximize cross ventilation, daylight and solar energy, the recycled oilfield pipe structure holds a laminated glass photovoltaic roof system that produces 1/3 more power than needed (roughly 87,000 kWh per year), eliminating the dependence of grid-tied power for the winery and the vineyard irrigation well pumps through net metering. Utilizing the laminated glass solar modules as both the actual primary roof and the renewable energy generator offsets any additional costs to construct an additional roof with separately mounted crystalline solar panels.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?

The most important inspiration is that buildings like this should be subservient to the landscape. This project drew inspiration from other agrarian structures that sit lightly on the land, thinking of the utilitarian farming shed with reclaimed, robust materials that are practical, yet with their own richness and left to weather on their own. It is a modern interpretation of constructing a barn as a farmer would have approached building it.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?

Sitting sentry as the foremost structure present upon entering the vineyard-lined property, the barn and its renewable energy system speak to the winery's commitment to sustainability and subservience to the natural landscape. This structure is completely self-sufficient and operates independently from the energy grid, maximizing the structure’s survivability and resilience.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of the building?

The building did not change much, if at all, from conceptual design to its completion. It was such a simple idea that few details had to be adjusted to account for construction tolerances. 

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?

Yes, starting with Lumos Solar LSX modules — cutting edge technology of sandwiched photovoltaic modules between two sheets of laminated glass — as the basis of design allowed the renewable energy system to be the actual roof as well, avoiding additional cost over a traditional roof and roof mounted crystalline panels.  This system is well-suited for an open-air barn structure.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?

Minimalistic materials were selected to withstand the particularly dry climate, for regional availability, long-term durability and to minimize the need for maintenance.  The primary column and roof structure is constructed of welded Schedule 40 reclaimed drill stem pipe, in 2”, 3” and 3.5” diameters, left to weather naturally. The lateral load resisting system, consists of diaphragm rod cross-bracing and vertical tension only cross-braced frames. Laminated glass solar modules, serving as both the solar system and the roofing, are supported on wood and WT steel flitch purlins welded to the pipe trusses.  An 8” diameter Schedule 40 half-pipe gutter is situated at the low end of the roof to accommodate future rainwater harvesting. 

22 gauge Western Rib Cor-Ten corrugated perforated steel panels provide shading and filtered privacy to equipment bays.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography

Salvaged materials do more with less. Barn doors are clad in weathered steel off-cuts that were saved for reuse from the adjacent winery shoring wall cladding, re-used in a "calico" pattern to fit the oddly shaped panels to tube steel framed door leafs. Storage boxes are skinned with stained cedar siding with the interiors clad with unfinished rotary cut Douglas Fir plywood. 

Foundations limit the amount of cast-in-place concrete by including pervious gravel paving for all open vehicle storage bays and livestock pens, maximizing the amount of rainwater that is filtered back through the soil into the watershed. In addition, providing an engineered deepened earthwork program allowed the structural foundation requirements to be more efficient with their utilization of cast-in-place concrete.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Photo: Casey Dunn Photography
Site Plan (Drawing: Clayton & Little Architects)
Floor Plan (Drawing: Clayton & Little Architects)
Exploded axonometric and solar energy diagrams (Drawing: Clayton & Little Architects)
Concept sketch (Drawing: Clayton & Little Architects)
Structural diagram (Drawing: Clayton & Little Architects)

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