A new maintenance shed is the first step in expanding the educational programs at the Brandywine and Red Clay Valley associations.Red Clay Valley Association Managing Director Jim Jordan said that when the organizations held education surveys, they found that the programs at the Browning barn were held in high regard.
"What the students liked most about the barn is they don't want that sanitary classroom atmosphere," Jordan said. "They like the rustic atmosphere of the barn."
Currently, the upper half of the barn is used for educational programs, while the lower half is used to store equipment.
Jordan said that the goal is to build the new maintenance shed for that equipment and then renovate the lower portion for the education programs by adding classroom space.
"We'll be maintaining the historical integrity of the barn, but we'll also be enhancing it," Jordan said. "But that first step is getting that equipment out."
Jordan said that as a conservation organization, certain expectations come into play when taking on a project of this nature.
"We didn't go into this thinking how can we do this as cheap as possible," he said. "We could have just put up a regular metal storage building that would have saved money and would have looked bad. We wanted to use technology that could showcase to area that it was done with low impact to the environment."
The new building will utilize four different stormwater management techniques, including a stormwater basin that will be planted with wet-land plants. The project will also use recycled materials as much as possible and will be set up in three separate heat zones that keep 80 percent of the building unheated.
It's also situated on the association's 318-acre property in such a way that doesn't impact on the surrounding view from Route 842 and has a minimal impact on open space. It will also blend in architecturally with its surroundings.
The roof will be constructed to accommodate solar panels in the future, although they are not included in the original plan.
The $265,000 project was created in conjunction with architects Bernardon, Haber and Holloway and engineering firm Regester Associates, with the site work done by David P. Roser, Inc. of Hockessin and contracted by Sylvan Stoltzfus of Paradise.
"Everyone has been very cooperative and understanding of our nonprofit and conservation status," Jordan said, adding that the Pocopson Township supervisors have also been helpful in getting the project started.
Although the official ground-breaking was on Tuesday, Jordan was hoping to have some of the initial grading work done last week. However, the rainy weather has delayed any work on the site so far.
Delays aside, Jordan hopes to move the equipment in by March 15, with the barn project to start soon thereafter.