To design and build inspiring buildings with an innovative, adaptable system that intimately reflect the values of our clients, our intentional collaborative process, our love of craft, and care for all resources involved.
We uphold the classical design-build tradition: A partnership between builder and client from initial ideas to finished structure in a design and construction process that is enjoyable and rewarding.
Questions About Us
We create artistic, custom built modified post-and-beam carriage houses, farmhouses, artisan stores, woodworking shops, art studios, wineries, wedding venues, and sometimes, even a good horse barn. You name it, we can build it.
The unique Geobarns architectural engineering approach was created in 1991 by Geobarns founder George Abetti, who started building barns part-time and experimenting with innovative framing methods to solve problems on each job. In 2003, Geobarns became a full-fledged, full-time design-build custom construction services firm, and the company grew quickly from small outbuildings to large event barns, commercial buildings and fine homes.
In a nutshell, we design it with you, then we build it for you. One team handles the entire process from first sketch to final nail.
Every Geobarn begins with a deep consultation with you and some initial sketches, usually drawn by hand by George. From there we go into more detailed design work and CAD plans to be sure the concept reflects your goals and that the budget is feasible. Once the CAD plans are approved, we have another round of design work for planning, estimates for materials and labor, and developing a step-by-step schedule for construction. Only after that round is approved will be begin construction.
The reason for the careful design and planning is so we can coordinate much more closely with your needs than a traditional bid contractor, where the arms-length relationship can sometimes create conflicts. The design-build arrangement puts Geobarns and you on the same team, with the shared goal of a great project at a fair price. With the Geobarn system, lots of details and options are known up front, and we can move very quickly to the key decisions that need to be made. When construction begins, there is no possibility of finger-pointing, because Geobarns did the design with you.
Learn more about our Design-Build process.
Our founder, George Abetti, works directly with clients to develop a passionately shared vision that defines the project. The vision is brought to life by Geobarns’ well-trained design team and construction crews, as well as a wide network of tradespeople, subcontractors, and artists with whom Geobarns has well-established relationships. We work in a transparent and collaborative building process in which our clients are deeply involved with every phase of design and construction.
Perhaps the best endorsement we can think of is that many of our clients become life-long friends.
Collaboration: Our work is entirely collaborative, from the first client meeting to post-occupancy follow-up. We often say that, in building a Geobarn, “One plus one equals three.” meaning that the client and the design-builders working together will inevitably find more complete, satisfying and economical solutions than we would working alone. Geobarns will never hesitate to give you our best advice, but our buildings are better each year because of things we learn from our clients.
Design & Development: Geobarns offers clients our expertise and lessons-learned from hundreds of projects. Whether the challenge is site development, capital budgeting decisions, infrastructure coordination, or buildings for complex event or hospitality programs, we bring the experiences of our partners, and also of our capable and successful clients.
Sustainability: Geobarns has always been oriented toward sustainability and health. Our building system is designed around finding the maximum potential of an ancient, versatile sustainable material (wood), and our management team brings long experience in sustainable land development and management practices. Sustainability is not one strategy: it’s a way of evaluating the many choices and preferences our clients bring against the capacity and characteristics of the site, the region and the ecosystem.
Learn more about our Design-Build process.
Geobarns Custom Design-Build Products & Services:
Collaborative vision: We believe design and construction can only be accomplished in close partnership with our clients, from first sketch to final nail
Design: Our design capabilities encompass everything from simple storage barns to community planning
Project Management: We manage everything we build, with frequent progress meetings with our clients, to ensure that projects stay on track
Finishes Consultation: Our designers help with selection of finishes and fixtures – down to door latches and paint colors – to deliver a harmonious design
A Geobarn is an integrated wood structural system, from floors to walls to roof. Our buildings are “post-and-beam,” meaning that they typically don’t require bearing walls and can enclose big, clear spaces with almost total flexibility. It’s a “hybrid” in the sense that our structural members are composed of smaller timbers than a typical post-and-beam, with posts and girders constructed for maximum efficiency and a consistent beauty. We also frame our buildings diagonally, at a 45 degree angle, which locks in the post-and-beam frame, making it extremely strong for its weight. Over thirty years, we’ve continually refined this system as an alternative to both conventional stick-built and timber-frame methods.
Our structures have been built in approximately twenty US states and two provinces in Canada. Geobarns is also pursuing several projects and partnerships in Europe. We have a continuous presence in all of New England, most of the mid-Atlantic centered on our second HQ in Virginia, and multiple projects under our belt in Texas and California. Often a call to a new location results in interested neighbors, which explains a flurry of Geobarns in spots far from home, like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Yes! We’ve built a number of commercial Geobarns over the years: churches, community centers, mixed-use developments, a library, retail stores, schools, wedding & event barns, and wineries. Our expertise includes site planning, navigating the permit and zoning process, ADA compliance, life safety systems, and a host of requirements specific to commercial and public accommodation construction. We’re accustomed to working with third-party architects, engineers, and other experts.
The simple answer is because every Geobarn is different. While that’s a truthful answer, it’s hardly satisfactory. The cost of every Geobarns depends on location, size, complexity, material prices, subcontractor bids, and a host of other potential expenses. It’s difficult to even give a price range that you could rely on… and the last thing we want to do is publish something today that might not be accurate later.
The best way to get an idea for your specific project in your specific location is to reach out to us here. Yeah, we know… no one wants to talk to a salesperson. Every one of our Project Questionnaires is answered by our founder George, with some current price guidance and anything specific that may affect your build. You won’t wind up on a telemarketing list, email list, or anything else like that. That would annoy you, it dishonors us, so we simply don’t do it.
Founder: George Abetti
Established: Originally founded as a part-time venture by George Abetti in 1991, Geobarns became a full-time, custom design-build firm in 2003.
Purpose: Geobarns specializes in building artistic, modified post-and-beam structures with diagonal framing to achieve a combination of strength, versatility, and beauty at reasonable prices.
Office Locations: White River Junction, Vermont and Charlottesville, Virginia
Geobarns Built: 350+
Average Number of Projects in a Year: 20 or more
Geobarns Build Locations : 23 states; all over New England and the Mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania, Ohio, as well as Texas and California. Available nationwide and in Canada.
Partners: George Abetti, founder; Ryan Hereth, operations; David Hamilton, design; Casey Williams, sustainability
Questions About Our Services
The main reason is you have one team that designs and builds your project from start to finish.
There are certainly benefits to speed, coordination with permits, and follow-on work during occupancy. There is also much more flexibility for changes, without continual renegotiation over “change orders.”
We find the main advantage is the continuous feedback on design choices and cost. We routinely “rescue” projects that come to us with a lovely, thoughtful design that bid at twice the owners’ budget. This CANNOT happen in our process. We are constantly checking our decisions against cost (which we know because we’re the designers as well as the builders), and we maintain the flexibility to make reasonable adjustments underway with minimal fuss.
Geobarns has substantial expertise in site planning, and we all but insist on helping our clients site their structures and infrastructure. We also help our clients with challenging permitting and approvals, as members of our team are experienced with zoning and architectural review in some of the country’s most restrictive jurisdictions. We also have extensive experience building in conservation communities, where special attention must be paid to site planning and utilities to protect the native environment.
Yes, you can! In fact, starting the design process early can be very helpful in refining your ideas into a floorplan, budget, and building schedule.
If you have a design, or even your own architect, that’s okay. We want to see them and talk in depth with you about them, but in most cases we’re not going to just bid and build it. We need to be involved in design and planning to make sure the build goes smoothly and correctly for our unique construction methods.
We’ve worked with 3rd party architects in many of our larger projects, and those went very well. Our design work is rooted in traditional architectural practices, so we ‘speak the same language’. In fact, one of our managing partners is a retired architect who teaches at a well-known graduate school.
Unfortunately, no. Plans produced by other designers cannot be adapted to our building methods. However, they can be a great starting point for your own Geobarn design.
At present, we do not sell building plans. Our designs are rooted in our proprietary construction and engineering methods, which requires trained crews and expert supervision to construct. However, in some cases, our clients act as their own General Contractor with assistance from our team.
Costs vary widely depending on size, geographic location, and most of all on the many choices we guide clients through. Geobarns can provide sample budgets for some of the projects featured on our website. We can also very quickly offer an accurate estimate for the “weathertight shell” of any project, so we don’t go too far into a project that is beyond your budget, then we can offer a range of costs that represent basic choices in kitchen, bath and finishes.
We know that people shopping for a builder really want numbers in answer to this question, but we’ve found in the past that even ‘ball park’ figures can be way off until we know something about the scope and goals of the project. That’s why we encourage you to drop us a message on whatever you’re thinking about… with a few brief questions, we can provide the guidance you need.
Yes! We’ve built a number of commercial Geobarns over the years for churches, community centers, mixed-use developments, a library, retail stores, schools, wedding & event barns, and wineries. Our expertise includes site planning, navigating the permit and zoning process, ADA compliance, life safety systems, and a host of requirements specific to commercial and public accommodation construction. We’re accustomed to working with third-party architects, engineers, and other experts.
Geobarns’ unique architectural engineering system enables our team to build on a faster than usual schedule — about one week per 500 square feet or 30 days on average. This speed advantage primarily impacts the time to “weathertight shell.” A client’s particular needs and design choices become the primary driver of schedule after the roof, windows and siding are complete. And this phase — finishing touches — is an area where our design team really helps our clients sort through the myriad choices to get the finished style they want.
It usually takes about a year, although it depends on the process for building approvals on your site, and on the complexity of the design. Simpler outbuildings and small homes can be built much faster, but we also commonly talk with potential clients for many years before they’re ready (financially, legally, spiritually) to build. That’s fine… we’d rather be in the loop as early as possible, because we can offer advice and tips to help get ready for that dream Geobarn. Typically, though, the initial design and pricing processes are very quick, because we work within a system of known materials, costs and engineering criteria.
Geobarns loves to work with entrepreneurs in this exciting phase of establishing a new business. We have built several highly regarded wine, wedding, and event venues, and clients benefit from our experience working with top owner-developer-operators. We are glad to offer an initial consultation for your project, charging only for travel (if required) or drafting time. Here are some tips from our experience:
First, get a builder involved early. It is very easy to spend a lot of precious startup capital on a design that does not ‘pencil’ financially.
Second, don’t design a venue based on the extreme maximum occupancy you can imagine. This is a recipe for over-spending on what may be cavernous, uncomfortable spaces during the 80% of events that are half the size. Consider dividable spaces for multiple types of use.
Third, carefully consider any requirements you hear from event planners, decorators, or caterers. This extends to occupancy calculations, dining setups, and kitchen needs. Practical needs are important, but please make a special place, not another hotel ballroom.
Finally, for most of our clients, interior spaces are only one key component of their project. The outdoor spaces you create with the placement of buildings on your site are just as important. Your clients’ most memorable moments, and the images they share, are often of porches, patios, lawns, and other gathering spaces that are defined by the building and landscape. This is every bit as important as figuring out where the parking goes.
Here’s an in-depth article on how we worked with our clients to design and build The Barn at Smuggler’s Notch.
Entrepreneurs starting or expanding a brand face very difficult questions in building and budget. Get a builder involved early. Heck, get us involved early. Startup capital is scarce, so your building needs to be design-efficient. This means your Geobarn often needs to be simultaneously a production space (durable, inexpensive) and a showpiece (close attention to finish and lighting). These decisions require quick feedback on cost, function and aesthetics, and this is an area where we shine. Some suggestions from our experience:
First, keep it flexible. Many of our clients change the allocation of production and retail spaces in the first year of operations, and many of them expand and contract these functions as the business changes.
Second, very few of our clients regret building a few extra square feet. Production always gets more complex. Every distiller adds a cider, or aging, or event space. Raw shell space is cheaper now than in a later expansion.
Third, pay careful attention to health and safety codes for your industry. Food and beverage production is more regulated than either construction or general business operations. Production of distilled spirits, in particular, must be done right. Be sure you understand the infrastructure and code requirements on your site.
Finally, get a builder to evaluate some site options with you. Geobarns loves to do this, and we can often spot a problem (e.g. truck access, site infrastructure) before it becomes an oversight you regret.
Oh yes. Our founder is a serious car aficionado, and we’ve built many spectacular commercial and private garages for businesses and for collectors. We’re very familiar with requirements for lifts and other specialty equipment, and we originally invented our immensely strong floor system so that collectors with bank barns could park the objects of their obsession on multiple floors. Geobarns can show you examples to help you set goals for your garage or shop project.
Absolutely yes. The Geobarns team includes lots of people with fine arts or craft backgrounds, and we have built many studio spaces for painters, sculptors, musicians, woodworkers, and textile artists. Studio building is something dear to our hearts, because creating spaces for artists to create beautiful things is a very fine thing for a builder to do. We believe a good studio nurtures the soul of the artist, in both design and function, and we’ve had a lot of practice getting this right. Our approach has a number of advantages for many artists:
First, Geobarns are durable and strong. You can beat on them, splatter them, and hang things from the beams, like an industrial loft. You can also make them very fine, but be secure in the knowledge that your Geobarn is up to it if your art gets physical.
Second, our structures are very easy to build around a quality or direction of natural light. The post-and-beam frame can open large sections to multi-story spaces for big windows and cupolas. We know… light is critical.
Third, the timber styling and natural woods of a Geobarn evoke an artisan heritage and connection to the land and nature. We think this is a good thing.
Finally, our buildings are spatially simple, flexible, and can be finished simply with durable natural materials to create a gallery or performance space that centers your work, not the technology of construction.
Here’s an in-depth article on our approach to building Studios and Workshops
Certainly! One of our most requested features are our hand-built Geobarns doors, especially our rolling barn doors. You can see a few here. Creating custom doors isn’t much more expensive than many of our factory-built doors and often less expensive than premium doors. Plus you’ll get a unique feature that perfectly complements your Geobarn.
We often design and build custom shelving, vanities and sometimes kitchens where casework is required. Our Shenandoah Modern Farmhouse project is a good example. While it’s not what we typically do, we have been known to produce individual furniture pieces to complement the artistic, modified post-and-beam structures we build. As an example, we built a wedding barn in Stowe, Vermont, and our clients couldn’t find banquet tables that met their standards for design and finish. So our crew built 32 of them, farm-table style, and even engineered them for easy moving and storage. We’ve been blessed with really highly-skilled crews who like to… well… show off a bit, when it’s needed.
Questions About Our Buildings
We can build just about anything you can imagine. Most Geobarns fall into one of these categories:
Agritourism Facilities: Equestrian Centers, Farm-to-Table Kitchens, Community Garden Centers, Wineries (see Geobarns Retail Venues and our Community Centers)
Art and Artisan Studios (see Building a Studio Workshop with Geobarns)
Carriage Homes and Carriage House Additions (see Geobarns Forever Homes)
Custom homes (see Geobarns Forever Homes)
Dream Garages and Car Collector Barns
Garage / Apartment Stand-alone Buildings and Additions (See Geobarns Mixed-Use Barns)
Modern Farmhouses (see Geobarns Forever Homes)
Net Zero energy homes – supplemented with solar power systems and sometimes returning more power to the grid than is consumed
Off-Grid Homes and Workshops
Utility Barns: Equipment Barns, Livestock Barns, & Storage Facilities (see Geobarns Utility / Equipment Barns).
Wedding Barns and Event Barns (see Wedding & Event Venues)
Workshops, Crafting Studios, and Artisan Goods Production Facilities (see Art Studios and Artisan Workshops)
There are several traditions of timber framing, from all around the world, but they all use massive timbers to frame “bays” supported at points along their corners, rather than traditional stick-built bearing walls. Our system does the same thing spatially – creating big, airy spaces with lots of light framed by big wood posts and girders – but our “timbers” are built up out of clever, efficient arrangements of more common, more sustainable framing lumber.
Our wood is very high quality, bearing little relation to the stud-lumber you can buy at a home store. We do not use old-growth timber. Our lumber sources are certified for sustainable forestry practices. While we use a lot of innovative techniques, we don’t practice the ancient art of carved joinery in our structures, so they are generally less expensive than a conventional timber frame. They also can span wider space with a comparable mass of wood. Our commercial buildings routinely span 36 feet or more using these methods.
The framing — the rhythm of the structure — is integral to the spatial experience. Our buildings usually make the most of this with tall, open spaces and light from cupolas above. A Geobarn is all the things people love about timber buildings: that airy quality anchored by obvious structural solidity. Because the aesthetic is about the SPACE, the materials can often be humble, though high quality, and simply detailed. Simple variations in finishes, in reflectivity, can make a rustic palette very sophisticated when it’s bathed in light. We build churches this way too, and it’s not far off to say our homes are kind of church-like inside.
Our construction system is more efficient than standard framing. Our farming waste coefficient is typically 0.05%, which is staggeringly low for the industry
Geobarns are immensely strong. Geobarns meets California’s strict Seismic Building Codes with only slight modifications
A Geobarn is an architecturally beautiful space that celebrates the carpenter’s art
Our versatile system is easily adapted to a wide variety of uses and applications
Geobarns’ modified post-and-beam buildings are characterized by unique elements such as free-span girder trusses, versatile open floor plans, diagonal framing, vaulted ceilings, and cupolas that fill interior spaces with natural light. Every Geobarn is designed for high thermal efficiency and high comfort. We carefully select materials that are sustainable, and we minimize VOCs and other unhealthy building products. Our innovative building approach meets or exceeds modern building standards.
Geobarns was founded on Yankee ingenuity and Vermont conservation. The Geobarns framing system is not only strong and versatile, it also produces very little waste. Most of our buildings have a waste coefficient of just 0.05%, which is staggeringly low.
We work with our suppliers to source materials that meet sustainable forestry practices.
We minimize or eliminate, wherever possible, materials that damage the environment to produce.
Wherever pressure-treated lumber must be used to protect against decomposition and pests, we use non-toxic Envirosafe products. We pay special attention to avoiding materials that emit organic volatiles, especially for sealing and insulation.
Our buildings are engineered and carefully sealed to minimize air and thermal transfers, which translates to lower energy costs and consumption.
Most of our clients are deeply concerned about the impact of human activity on our planet, and this is something we discuss in detail in the design and planning stages to make sure their Geobarns meet – or exceed – the best practices for sustainable lifestyles.
When designing and building a highly energy efficient building, the main thing is taking time and care in construction and the details. Precision cuts and assembly minimize the potential gaps that can permit air – and thermal energy – to penetrate the shell. We use a series of layered membranes to minimize air tranfers and manage moisture. The big thing is taking time to carefully seal every seam and gap with the right materials – extrusion insulation, sealant tapes, and proper installation of insulation. It’s somewhat tedious work, but it’s crticial for high energy performance of the Geobarn over its lifetime of service.
And since our buildings are so much more rigid than traditional stick-framing, they are more resistant to shifting over time… which means they retain that high energy performance much better than other methods of construciton.
We’ve built several Geobarns in Northern California, where seismic engineering standards are very strict. Working with local timber engineers, we discovered that the extremely rigid frame we designed for durability and economy is well-suited to the requirements of seismic zones. And we’ve been put to the test. Shortly after construction of our first California Geobarn near Napa, a sizeable quake struck, which damaged many structures in the area. The quake was violent enough to throw our client from his bed (he was very fortunately unhurt). Heading out to check his new Geobarn the next morning, he discovered the building unharmed, except a for couple hairline cracks in his drywall. That’s it.
Geobarns has built other projects in California, and even in Italy, where communities need seismic-resistant buildings that are cost-effective as well as safely engineered. In California, one of the most seismically active regions in the United States, our buildings showcase the earthquake resilience built into the Geobarn frame. Typical stick construction must be reinforced by plywood “shear panels” or steel fittings, while the Geobarn frame resolves torsion and shear forces within the diagonally framed wall. A few simple and inexpensive upgrades of our framing connectors make our buildings a durable (and compliant) option in areas with earthquake risk.
All of our residential projects are custom-designed for each client, but the Geobarn system offers many efficiencies, and our experience will guide clients to make beautiful and cost-effective choices. Also, in reality, we’ve done enough homes now that very often we are able to start with a proven, efficient structure and conceptual floor plan that we’ve built before, and customize it to a clients needs and to the site. Each client gets the benefit of what we’ve learned in previous projects. We collaborate closely with our homebuilding clients, and many become lifelong friends.
We commonly build homes between 1,200 and 4,000 sqft in the U.S., but we’ve also built tiny cabins and large live-work structures. We don’t choose projects based on size, but we find that homes with a second floor get the most economic bang for the buck out of our innovative framing system. It is also economical, in many of our homes, to open sections up to multistory spaces that bring in light and create an airy, larger space.
We built cozy youth cabins at a YMCA camp, and some of our art studios were pretty small, since that’s what the artists needed. On the larger side, we’ve completed a number of event facilties in the 20,000 square foot range, including a massive wedding campus near Houston. Several of our projects encompassed several Geobarns in various configurations, such as agricutural facilities and gathering spaces for large housing developments.
We’ve built a garage-laboratory for engineers attempting to break a land speed record. That was really interesting. We’ve built very similar structures for professional recording studios and art studio-galleries. The same structural system, enlarged, can be home to goats or to a team of renowned craft distillers with a million-BTU pot still. One of our clients wanted a ground floor in a recreation barn that could serve as a roller rink. The magic comes from our clients, whose passion makes each Geobarn unique in its own way. We stay in touch with many of our clients for years, and we delight in the creative endeavors they undertake in their Geobarns.
No, we don’t provide building kits. Every Geobarn is custom designed and built according to our client’s needs, the site, and budget. Geobarns have a distinct architectural style, which might suggest a kit, but each one is truly a one-of-a-kind custom building. We have a well-honed construction method that produces a strong, durable structure with minimal framing waste, and we can build them fairly rapidly. In some respects, you’re getting some of the advantages of precision manufacturing in a completely custom Geobarn.