Let the Great Shops Win!

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Is your shop a winner? Enter our shops contest to find out. See entry and prize details below. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Mark Tade.)

Jim Sladek had to pause for a moment when asked if he would do anything different in the construction of his farm shop-farm office. But then he shook his head 'no.'

"Quite a bit of thought and planning went into the shop and so far we're happy with how it turned out," said Sladek of JCS Family Farms near Iowa City, Iowa. "We went around and stole ideas from everyone else -- things we liked."

Two of those ideas that have really paid off include building the shop with structured insulated panels, or SIPs, and using a geothermal system to heat and cool the shop and offices. The 80- x 120-foot shop, with 20-foot-high ceilings, along with a 3,500-square-foot farm office costs an average of about $400 per month to heat and cool year round.

That's the power of using a building system that is up to 15 times more airtight than conventional construction and can reduce energy costs up to 50%. The closed cell foam walls stop the transfer of moisture that can increase rust and corrosion.

The SIPs essentially consist of two sheets of 3/4 inch plywood bonded to, and sandwiching 7 1/2 inches of rigid foam plastic insulation. Once on site, the 4 x 4-foot panels are locked together "kind of like puzzle pieces," said Sladek. "The engineering to our site and our specifications takes place before the panels arrive here," he said. "It goes up really fast. It only took a couple of days for the building itself to be constructed."

The shop walls have an R-value of 33 while the blown-on fiberglass ceiling insulation has an R-value of 40. The SIPs are covered on the interior with white fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels known as glass board. The covering is smooth, non-porous, and has no exposed fasteners, which makes it very easy to clean.

The shop's floors consist of packed gravel then high density foam insulation beneath 8 inches of poured concrete laced with rebar and geothermal "radiant" tubes carrying a mixture of water and propylene glycol. Essentially, a geothermal system exchanges heat with the earth, rather than the outdoor air, to regulate temperatures indoors.

"It is important to insulate underneath geothermal lines," said Sladek. Those radiant tubes under the floor are part of a system in which 36 additional lines travel out 200 feet away from the shop buried 16 feet underground. At that depth, temperatures remain 52 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

"A geothermal heat pump doesn't use combustion, it collects heat and moves it," says Jake Rabe of Rabe Hardware of Blairstown, Iowa, the largest geothermal contractor in the state.


These are the kinds of construction and efficiency ideas we are looking to feature in our next Great American Shop Contest. But also, design features that make your shop work more efficiently and productively.

-- How do you handle parts and maintenance flow?

-- How does the design of your shop make your work easier?

-- Tell us about your storage and organization ideas.

-- How about your lighting system?

-- How do you handle your fluids, oils and pesticides?

-- What does your shop office look like? How does it function?

-- What about the fun side of your shop and office -- game areas, kitchens, areas set aside to watch college football?

-- What are the coolest features you dreamed up that have paid off big time?

-- What is the best idea in your shop?

In short, DTN/The Progressive Farmer is looking for well-planned, great shops with a bit of fun added in for the heck of it.

Tell us about your Great Shop (send photos, too).

We'll pay every winner $500, plus an additional prize or two.

We're accepting entries in four categories (we may choose more than a single winner per category):

1. Shops 1,500 square feet and less.

2. Shops 1,501 square feet to 5,000 square feet.

3. Shops 5,001 square feet and more.

4. Recycled/Rehabbed shops (older buildings converted into new and productive space).

The deadline for Great American Shops contest is Friday, July 21, 2017.

Send your entries by mail or email:

Dan Miller Senior Editor, The Progressive Farmer Suite 415 2204 Lakeshore Drive Birmingham, AL 35209; phone: 205-613-6088

Let the Great American Shops Win!



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