Building construction and design

Building construction

BS5502 provides recommendations and principles for buildings which are to be used for housing dairy cattle.

If buildings may potentially be used for other purposes, or have additions fitted such as solar panels then it would be sensible to establish the requirements of such fittings prior to construction. Following recent heavy snowfalls, when repairing or replacing damaged buildings it is advised that additional advice be sought from a structural engineer and to consider applying a more demanding snow loading.

The Rural & Industrial Design and Building Association (RIDBA), has detailed knowledge of the function and environmental requirements of modern agricultural and industrial buildings. They provide information on siting, planning, design and construction of new buildings. Along with conversion and diversification of existing buildings.

Most common is metal span building with side walls constructed of blocks, wood or concrete. The side walls should be completed with some form of ventilation, most commonly space boarding or Yorkshire boarding. 

The degree of complexity of the building should ultimately depend on the end use. If a building is to be utilised solely for dairy cow housing for 12 months of the year, it is easier to justify a specialist building. If the building is to house cattle for two or three months and will then fulfil other roles, the design is likely to be more general purpose. However, often this involves compromise, especially to the ventilation of the building, which can have adverse impacts on cow health and welfare.

Using figures from the 2010 SAC Farm Buildings cost guide, the difference in costs of different building types can be assessed

Building type and associated building costs (£ per m2)

Building Type

Cost £ / m2

Timber pole barn 


Kennel Building


General purpose building 


Straw bedded yard building


Straw bedded yard building (drive-through feed passage)


Cubicle house


 Adaptations to existing buildings

Often existing buildings are adapted to serve either a different or dual purpose or to adopt a change of management system. Attention should be made to the dimensions of buildings to establish whether the proposed changes can be practically implemented.

It is advisable to safely assess the structure of the building, adapting a structurally unsafe building is not recommended. Not all animal's requirements are the same, so care should be taken when designing adaptations. For example, ventilation is critical to the health of youngstock. The location of buildings on the site should be considered when planning adaptations, for example, if new builds may be erected in the vicinity, air speed and movement are likely to be affected.