Our farming ancestors knew a thing or two about the best way to keep animals healthy. Housing needs all sorts of critters came with the homesteading territory and the innovations that our forefathers made in barn design are still alive and kicking today across the rural landscape.
But you may not realize the reasons why, so here’s an insight into how our ‘grandparents’’ Monitor barn developed and why we are blessed to have it in use for our beloved horses today.
Everything Old is Not New Again – It Never Went Away
The familiar design of the Monitor barn was an advance in architecture that evolved eons ago to address the need to provide better air circulation for the health of livestock and the safe storage of hay and grain.
Of course barns built to house livestock, hay and grain, have been a necessity across the world for centuries and their styles have changed as mankind has realized the shortcomings and advantages of the different shapes and sizes of barn construction.
Over time their uses have become more and more specialized. In the later 1890’s the development of a new roof system, the monitor roof, provided farmers with much needed additional ventilation to help negate the negative impact of bacteria on grains and crops and improved the health of their livestock during long winter months where access to fresh air was hindered by poor weather. The monitor roof design increased both natural light and improved air circulation.
This simple development in design elevated the usefulness of the barn in daily use by extending its seasonal benefits for a wider variety of weather patterns. The Monitor barn is likely the forerunner for the center aisle barn or the ‘American’ barn (as our neighbors across the pond call it).
Construction Couldn’t Be Simpler
Think of a Monitor barn as three separate boxes, one on each side of an aisle and a third above that creates a roof. The boxes on each side are perfect for housing livestock in stalls such as horses, or housing cattle for milking.
A loft or floor could be added to the second story above the aisle to store grain and hay, and openings in the gable ends could move air through the loft space. Often hatches in the loft floor provided chutes to feed the livestock below with grain from the threshed crops stored above, and hay could be dropped into the stalls below for dry feeding of horses or cattle.
This design was popular into the 1920’s where Monitor barns were very popular in New England. A great example is the Monitor barn ‘West Monitor’ in Richman, VT.
Warm In Winter, Cool In Summer
The central aisle of the Monitor barn can be carefully positioned on site to allow cool summer breezes to pass through the building from sliding doors on the gable ends of the structure, while placed to avoid the prevailing direction of the wicked winter winds.
The raised center roof enables air to be drawn in from open doors on both ends of the aisleway from the lower floor and rise above, where windows on each side of the top tier dissipate the heat while allowing ‘bacteria killing’ natural light and fresh air to enter the building. Essentially, this design offers a shaft system that moves air from the ground up into the rafters and out through the sides.
In long winter months the loft area above (if constructed), can be used for efficient feeding of the livestock below from the stored hay or grain supplies stored above. The doors on each gable end can remain closed and used only for access, and windows can be fastened shut or partially opened to allow for additional ventilation in Spring and Fall months or to release heat that is radiated from the livestock below.
Horses and other livestock use evaporation to stay cool in hot weather, and passive airflow can greatly improve their ability to release heat from their body surface and thus minimize heat stress in hot climates.
The Perfect Product For Transport
Today, the process of building a Monitor barn is as simple as 1,2,3, due to the fact that this construction lends itself well to modular building and is a quick and easy set up. The 3 boxes, two for stalls on each side are set a distance apart, and the third box is simply added on top, without a loft floor.
The ‘instant’ nature of the modular barn purchase means you don’t have to deal with the noise, mess and hence stress of having a construction crew up and down the driveway for weeks on end hammering away on a pole built barn.
You can construct all three boxes to your custom design and have the barn components built in the factory where weather delays are never an issue. A good modular building company will provide engineer approved plans for permits (perhaps an additional cost), and ensure the build meets or exceeds your local snow and wind load requirements.
Stalls, aisles and loft space can be sized for your particular needs, and the building can be sided and roofed with traditional wood or more modern products such as LP Smartside (which is great as it is almost maintenance free), and the stalls pre-finished with oak kickboards, stall doors and windows, and a tack room and feed room. And don’t forget the overhang. The addition of an overhang to either side of the structure can add valuable storage and affords extra shelter from weather elements.
The 3-box structure of a monitor barn means transportation is straightforward, with a set up that requires a small crane to lift box 3 into place on top, where it is then secured for a watertight finish.
The Monitor Barn Offers A Budget Friendly Barn Building Choice
The simplicity of the monitor design has meant it has maintained its popularity, due to its affordability and its flexibility for housing a variety of types of animals.
The cleverness of the design means not only does it provide excellent ventilation for the health of your horse especially if there is no loft floor added, it also offers storage above in a full or partial loft space for hay and provisions if that is required.
An iconic design that has withstood the test of time, the Monitor barn enjoys significant demand today. While the time-tested historic Monitor barns across the U.S.A., may have long ago been converted to uses as homes, wedding/event venues, the horse owners of today still embrace its innate practicality of purpose. Outstanding form and function will always win out in architectural relevance when their thoughtful application have proven to withstand the test of time.
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About Horizon Structures: One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.
All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –
Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.
Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.
For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
Photos are available on request.
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Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.