The students are part of North Carolina State University’s summer design-and-build program for graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Design. The program cooperates with Durham-based architecture firm BuildSense each summer to help local organizations complete construction projects at reduced cost.
Benevolence Farm is a nonprofit organization in Graham, N.C. and based in Carrboro that will soon house up to 12 women just released from prison. The organization aims to ease the women’s transition back into society and the workforce by providing them with social, agricultural and other skills.
Randy Lanou, an owner of BuildSense and an adjunct associate professor at N.C. State, said the summer program has been running for about five years.
“I met with Tanya (Jisa, founder and executive director of Benevolence Farm) about another topic while I was on the hunt for a good design-build project,” he said. “I understood they needed this building, and we made a proposal, and they loved it.”
Since the farm will grow, harvest and sell food locally, Jisa said the barn structure will feature room temperature and cold storage units for food, vegetable washing stations and open areas that will double as event space.
“We’re focusing on sustainability as a big part of the project — reusing water to irrigate other parts of the farm, things like that,” she said. “We’re making sure it’s an open air space with lots of daylight.”
Lanou, one of the four instructors on the project, said students first identified Benevolence Farm’s needs.
“It’s a functional barn — its main job is to have a place where you can wash and process vegetables,” he said.
The program will cover project management, labor and design, but Jisa said the farm will be responsible for purchasing materials. Some materials will come from a horse barn being demolished in Orange County and from Habitat for Humanity, but the farm will have to do some fundraising as well, she said.
“Right now our primary fundraising pool is individual donations of $101 to put the donator’s name on the side of the barn,” she said.
Architecture graduate student Katy Liang, one of 18 total students working on the project, said this is her first opportunity to have an architectural project she’s helped design be actually built.
“For most of us, it becomes a pretty important part of our education,” she said.
Liang said the class meets in a traditional setting all semester to design the project. She said learning about Benevolence Farm’s mission helped guide the barn’s design.
“We met a woman who had been in prison who commented on the project, and it helped our design process, hearing her story, thinking about women coming out of prison,” she said.
“We’ve tried to incorporate their experience in our design — it is a very open structure, it’s not enclosed like a house or a building. It’s basically a roof. You can walk out of the building from all four sides.”
Liang said when the structure is completed, the students will hold a barn-raising together. The project is set to be finished by the end of July.