What to Do With an Old Dollar General® Pole Barn
In the fall of 2016 the town of Reading, MI purchased the pole barn which had previously been the home of a Dollar General® store. The original plan was to convert the pole barn into a new city hall, but, after seeing the estimated price tag the idea was set aside.
The city’s maintenance man, Bob Jepsen, suggested tearing down the walls, replacing the building’s leaky roof and converting the building into a pavilion. It turns out the city’s planning commission thought this would be a great idea and held a public meeting to discuss.
In the early days of railway transportation, the brakemen rode in the last car of the train – the caboose (seen many of these lately?). He had one of the deadliest jobs in America, as the brakeman had to work from the tops of the railway cars in all sorts of weather.
In the case of the old Dollar General® pole barn, I am going to act as brakeman on the runaway train which is the remodel of the building into a pavilion.
Tearing the walls off of an existing post frame (pole barn) building sounds relatively easy – and from a labor standpoint it may be. Where it all gets dicey is when it comes to structural engineering.
When a post frame building has its walls removed, the columns (posts) now act as cantilevers. They are functioning similar to a diving board, where the end is very flexible. With the walls on the building, the columns are, in most cases, acting as beams supported at one end by the ground and the other by a relatively rigid roof diaphragm.
The difference in the loads which the columns must resist are increased by a factor of four without the walls present, as the posts become the sole structural members for transfer of wind loads from the roof to the ground. This potentially not only impacts the design of the columns, but also of their embedment into the ground.
Whether it is this particular Dollar General® pole barn, or any other post frame building where exterior walls are being considered for removal, a RDP (Registered Design Professional – engineer or architect) should be engaged early on in the process to make a determination as to what upgrades are necessary to result in a structurally sound building.