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03.16.11

Facebook Pages: Visit Blackburn!

We’ve started a Facebook page for Blackburn Architects, which is a one-stop shop for all of our equestrian news, events, and projects. Please visit us and feel free to post questions about your next architecture project, equestrian design, party barn conversions… we’ll do our best to answer any and all!

Bird's eye view of Winley Farm in Millbrook, New York

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01.19.11

ReSource 7: My Vote for Free Green’s Design Contest

I’m always proud to watch Blackburn designers excel in their work, even after leaving the firm. That’s why I have to share that one of our former project designers, who left the firm to earn his Masters in Architecture at the University of Virginia, is a finalist in the “Who’s Next” design contest run by Free Green.

As part of a team of UVA grad students called ReSource 7 (they also offer design services in the Charlottesville area), the design made the top 50 from over 400 overall entries. The next phase of the competition is a public vote, which will be worth 25% of the final judging scores.

The contest challenged designers to create a 1,600 square foot residential design that offers “affordable luxury” and utilizes sustainable and affordable strategies within a practical plan. ReSource 7’s design centers around a “modernist retreat” theme for a couple planning to build a lakeside home.

The group designed a two bedroom, two bath residence that ties the indoor with the outdoor for an open yet intimate space. The “Re-Vive” home design offers flexible studio and guest spaces, which allows the owners – a married couple – to grow within the space should their needs change. Clerestory windows throughout allow the owners to control the abundant natural light within the home, while built-in seating and shelving in a library room add a customized touch to the residence. A greenhouse is built in to the south wall of the kitchen, offering access from the kitchen itself. The seamless meld of the indoor and outdoor is further emphasized by a shaded porch with an outdoor fireplace off the master bedroom and stepped planting beds that nestle a boardwalk path leading to a lakeside deck.

For more information and to vote, view ReSource 7’s entry on Free Green’s website. The deadline to vote is Saturday, January 29, 2011.

ReSource 7's "Re-Vive" Residence - Lakeside (South) View

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12.30.10

Composting Horse Manure: A Guide to the (very) Basics

Composting, or deriving decayed plant matter from manure into nutrient-rich soil-like material, may be as old as, well, dirt. Still, the practice of composting remains a relevant option for barn owners; especially as sustainable farming methods gain popularity.

Beyond sustainability, compost pros often cite sheer quantity as initiative: a single horse (1,000 lbs. or so) produces between 40 to 50 pounds of manure daily. That brings a phrase to mind that I won’t type, but you get the gist: horse owners deal with a lot of muck that can’t be ignored.

So you have the raw material to work with…now what? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as piling it up and letting nature run its course. You have to turn (often literally) manure into compost—a feat that isn’t overly difficult, but involves a few steps. However, with a little effort, complete composting can occur within four to six weeks.

Most of what I’ve learned about composting comes from attending a seminar hosted by the Horse Outreach Workgroup (HOW) on soil management and land use issues and working with Peter Moon of O2 Compost – both are fantastic resources for more in-depth review.

According to Peter Moon of O2 Compost, controlling the composting process is the real challenge, since horse manure often contains a high wood content from bedding as well as even weed seeds—meaning it’s only garden-friendly if properly composted. Moon recommends inducing oxygen through one large compost pile using an electric blower, which stimulates microbial activity and jumpstarts the composting process. Known as aerated static pile composting, this may be an option to consider if you are dealing with a large volume of manure (more than four horses), as it eliminates manual turning. Another method is to manually turn windrows (elongated piles) using a shovel or front-end loader to tumble the manure to introduce oxygen throughout the mix. Regardless of method, the goal remains the same: naturally heated compost that ranges between 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that kills most internal parasites and weed seeds.

An aerated static pile on O2 Compost's website

The Horse Outreach Workgroup (HOW) identifies oxygen, moisture, and carbon to nitrogen ratio as measurable qualities essential to composting successfully. To calculate proper levels of each, I recommend the tools available through the Cornell Waste Management Institute.

Oxygen

Whether turning your compost up to three times a week manually or utilizing an electric blower, pipes, fans, or other tools, getting oxygen into the mix is paramount. Without oxygen, it’s just a smelly pile of manure. The process of introducing oxygen into compost is called aerating; aeration allows faster decomposition.

Moisture

HOW notes that compost piles should feel like a wrung-out sponge: not too wet and not too dry. Overly wet compost can be tampered with leaves, straw, or yard trimmings, while a little water can aid dry compost. Covering the pile with plastic can also help retain moisture.

Carbon: Nitrogen Ratio

While it can get much more technical, basically a compost pile should be carbon based with a touch of nitrogen. Various compost components contain different levels of each, so calculation tools such as the ones available from Cornell Waste Management come in handy. HOW lists the ideal carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio as 25-30:1. Horse manure itself is about 50:1 (a number higher still with bedding factored in), which is why leaves and other materials must be added to achieve the proper C:N ratio.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Benefits

  • Enrich pastures and gardens
  • Improve soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention
  • Lighten clay soil types
  • Increase water retention in sandy soil
  • Help control erosion
  • Increase soil fertility
  • Balance pH levels
  • Control odors, flies, and pests
  • Capture over 95% of industrial volatile chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air
  • Reduce manure volume by about half

Tips

  • Switch bedding from wood shavings to wood pellets to improve the carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N)
  • Start in late summer/early fall to take advantage of longer daylight hours and decent weather
  • Compost is worth about $20 to $40 per yard, according to Peter Moon of O2 Compost
  • Do not use treated wood scraps or yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides in your compost pile
  • “Done” compost is about half of its original size

Resources

Above-grade muck pit at Kindle Hill Farm

Below-grade muck pit at Sheik Island Farm

 

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12.08.10

Re-Use Architecture by Chris van Uffelen – Braun Publishing

We just received a copy of Chris van Uffelen‘s new book called Re-Use Architecture from the German publishing house, Braun. This substantial book highlights adaptive reuse projects throughout the world: Blackburn’s New River Bank Barn project is part of the stunning collection.

As van Uffelen asserts, building conversion is more relevant than ever as recycled and eco-friendly solutions are becoming the norm. It’s a gratifying challenge for me to “save” an old barn or convert a worn out structure into something different while paying respect to its former use. I can’t help but appreciate a book that makes showing off these type of projects a mission.

We’ve been fortunate to have received attention for the New River Bank Barn, which was a memorable and exciting project for our firm. I still can’t help but feel proud when I look at the “before” photo of the 1800s bank barn, which was in severe disrepair. Most of the structure was preserved, but re-clad in SIPs panels to provide insulation and structural support. The SIPs panels are sandwiched between the original barn walls and a new board-and-batten exterior. The northeast-facing wall of the original structure was removed entirely and glazed, opening the interior to expansive (and very private) views of the property to the Potomac River. Steel columns were added and wrapped in indigenous fieldstone to support the new glass wall, which was designed with mullions that align with the original frame columns and purlins so that the framework fits aesthetically with the original structure.

Our work could only be done thanks to the owner’s foresight to envision a new future for the old structure. I couldn’t be more pleased to have been given the opportunity to “save” the bank barn, which now hosts gatherings and parties for the owner’s friends and family. Re-Use Architecture is available at Amazon and major book retailers.

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07.23.10

Barn Placement: How to Position your Stables for Maximum “Green” Efficiency

Where your barn sits on your property is one of the first decisions you’ll make when planning for a new barn. Grade, drainage, proximity of service roads, prevailing winds, and barn angle in relation to the sun all play a key role in the health and safety of your horses.

Equestrian site planning can help you avoid mistakes that can have significant health consequences for your horses, as well as improve the efficiency of daily operations. Here are a few points to consider when site planning with the environment in mind.

Building orientation as it relates to the path of the sun and prevailing winds.

This single decision—where to place your barn—has a huge impact on energy efficiency as well as the health and comfort of your stabled horses. Harnessing passive solar heat energy and prevailing breezes can keep your barn cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Design decisions that include the placement of façade openings, overhangs, skylights, roof vents, and more allow a building to work with solar energy passively.

Drainage lines, water conservation, prevention of pollution.

Barns and arenas create large footprints with massive roof spaces. Water displacement should be considered so that water draining from the barn site doesn’t contaminate local streams with hazardous runoff, cause soil erosion, and water loss. Storm drainage can be collected and returned to the ground or conserved for other purposes.

Site disturbance

Construction machinery can cause soil erosion, damage root systems of timber, and destroy sensitive grassland. Stockpiles of materials can create similar damage to the natural ecology. Thoughtful placement of machinery and materials is important. Where paving is necessary, choose recycled, permeable materials. Plan adequate paddock spaces and establish a paddock rotation plan so that horses can rotate the use of outdoor areas to avoid damage to sensitive grasslands.

Glenwood Farm photo by Steve Roe

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06.25.10

Equestrian Professional (.com)

I was recently interviewed by Clay Nelson, a founder of the green farm design and management website, Sustainable Stables, for an article about green barn design for this month’s Equestrian Professional newsletter. You can read the article here.

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06.24.10

Re-Source 7: Design Services from UVA Graduate Students

A former employee, who left the firm to earn his Masters in Architecture at the University of Virginia, has started a group called Re-Source 7 with his fellow students to offer design expertise for cheap to the lucky residents of Charlottesville. Some of the services provided by this talented bunch are web design, graphic design, 3-D rendering, and—of course—architectural design (which I’d highly recommend if you live in the C-ville area). For non-residents, however, check out the Design Stream section of the site for posts about tackling weekend renovation projects for your home and other design-related stories.

Their efforts take me back to my own graduate school days at Washington University in St. Louis, where a group of my friends and I started a Planning Design Collective to provide design services to people interested in quality design but couldn’t necessarily afford it—young couples and families, mostly—and to low-income families to help them renovate their inner-city row houses into apartments. We must have completed somewhere around 10 projects, and it was a memorable experience.

Don't put off installing a rain barrel for a rainy day

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04.20.10

Blackburn Greenbarns- Happy (Almost) Earth Day!

OK, so I have to once again spread the word about Blackburn Greenbarns®, our pre-designed line of sustainable barns. We just issued a press release, which you can check out here. We are really excited to share these new barns with you in a “ready-to-construct” format. We really feel that all equestrians (and their horses too, of course) deserve to have sustainable barn options that are easy to modify, protect the health and safety of your horses, and are ready to construct quickly and efficiently (with the help of a licensed professional, of course).

We are sending out virtual invitations to all our friends, clients old and new, and family to take a look at our new website this Thursday when it will be complete. However, please feel free to visit the site before then at www.blackburngreenbarns.com. We hope you’ll like it and we hope to hear from you if you have any feedback, questions, or interest.

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04.08.10

Feedback Requested: Horse Barns and Equestrian Design

Hello Readers,

At the Blackburn office, we’ve been busy developing Blackburn Greenbarns®, a line of pre-designed barns that are sustainable, provide a healthy and safe atmosphere for horses, and are more affordable than custom design. We first introduced this line of barns last April, but the overall construction costs for the barns were a little higher than we would have liked. So, we decided to go back to the drawing board (literally) in an attempt to streamline the process without compromising our values. We are almost ready to relaunch Blackburn Greenbarns® (with a new and improved website on its way!) with a “kit barn” option, but I would really love to hear from you as far as what’s most important to you when building a new barn.

I know that cost is a huge factor—as it should be—for most barn owners. However, I also know that being a horse owner is quite an investment in and of itself—and that most owners just want a facility that protects their horses when they are in the barn, knowing full well that the horses would rather be lazing about in the paddocks.

What is the most important factor when building a new barn? Affordability? What about the style or look of the barn? Are you interested in sustainable products or incorporating green design?

[polldaddy poll=3054182]

I hope you’ll comment on this post and share your thoughts. Maybe there’s something that all the barn builders (or architects) forget to include/consider and it drives you nuts? Or maybe there’s a particular service (like site planning) that you’d find valuable but aren’t sure you can afford or truly need and would like to know more about it.

Hope to hear from you! More on what we’ve been up to soon.

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03.30.10

Brighter Planet’s 350 Challenge — Sign Up!

I just off-set 350 lbs. of carbon just by filling out a short form. It’s all part of Brighter Planet’s 350 Challenge, which is a very minor (but important) way to show support for the fight against climate change. Brighter Planet creates web-based tools that help businesses and individuals “integrate carbon emissions modeling and tap the power of social media,” according to its website. The 350 Challenge helps draw attention to off-setting carbon emissions and demonstrates how small changes by individuals can add up to big results. Signing up for the challenge, Brighter Planet notes, is like turning off 100 light bulbs for a day. Now that’s a bright idea. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge

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