South Asian-Canadian Man Building Dream Home Out Of Grain Silo

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WINNIPEG — A South Asian-Canadian man is building an unusual home in rural Winnipeg. Suruj Persaud, 41, is building his dream home out of a giant grain silo part way between Dugald and Anola on Highway 15.

“From the road, it looks like a small tin can,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press. (A tin can with windows, perhaps.) “But when you come inside, it looks way bigger than a real house.”

His main floor is 1,500 square (round?) feet, and he’s added a second floor, for about 3,000 square feet in total. (The grain bin would normally contain 25,000 bushels of wheat.) His garage, also a steel bin, has even more floor space, almost 1,900 square feet but no second floor.

Persaud is a free spirit, as one might expect of someone building a cylindrical house. Swallows have a nest inside the house, and they zip in and out the door. Persaud is cool with that, for now. He looks like an old world prophet, with his beard and full locks, and says he’s heard that before. “They could call me worse things.”

The story began with Persaud, who emigrated from Guyana on the northern border of Brazil, not being able to afford the house of his dreams. Someone at steel grain bin manufacturer, Weststeel, where he works, joked he should make his dream home out of a grain bin.

The idea took root in his brain. Two days later he was arranging to buy a grain bin roof from Weststeel that was headed for salvage.

It’s not as insane as it sounds. You can find all manner of silo-converted homes on the Internet. Mother Earth News lauded them in a 2009 feature. In Bozeman, Mont., there is a tea house, workshop and church all built out of grain bins. (Churches appreciate rounded architecture.)

One problem was finding a contractor willing to take it on. Several declined until he met Dan Landry of the Winnipeg firm, Charpenterie sans souci ltd.

“I just saw the challenge of it,” said Landry. “That challenge is something that makes you want to get up in the morning and go to work.” Those challenges include putting windows into round walls.

A steel bin house has advantages, however. The steel withstands winds up to 300 kilometres per hour. (Grain silos have been used to build hurricane-resistant homes in Florida).

It’s fire resistant. The cap at the top where the grain would normally enter will be replaced with a plexiglass window to provide natural light throughout.

New 25,000-bushel grain bins sell in the $35,000 range but Persaud got his for much less. Westeel allows employees like Persaud to purchase discounted “seconds” — bin material not for sale because it has a scratch or some discolouring from the elements. Landry said Persaud’s exterior cost him 25 per cent of what a regular house would cost. Persaud is using mostly salvaged material, including used hydro poles to hold up the second floor.

The half-finished home has a very stylish roof where the steel compresses into a spectacular radiant effect, like sun rays.

His outside deck is made from perforated steel — the floor of the silo, which has air holes so the grain stays cool. Persaud says it’s excellent material. It doesn’t become hot from the sun and water drains right through like a spaghetti strainer.

The other challenge for Persaud is its location. It’s situated between a highway, railway track, and “a swamp,” in Persaud’s words. “It was all bullrushes,” he said. He had 70 truckloads of gravel dumped here. The home is on almost four feet of gravel.

It’s not really a swamp but more of a meadow. After spring, you can walk through without getting wet, although the bullrushes do reach over an average person’s head. He wanted the location for the space it affords. “Lots of birds come by,” he said.

Persaud is divorced with three children. He began construction in 2008, and can now stay overnight. He plans to accelerate the pace of construction.

Courtesy Winnipeg Free Press