I want to share this video clip as well as an article by Clay Nelson of Sustainable Stables about the age-old, though presently uncommon, practice of using draft horses for farm labor. I’ve been able to get to know Clay and his work with Sustainable Stables, which promotes green equestrian practices, over the last year after he contacted my firm to discuss our own sustainable design practices. The attached YouTube clip shows an interview of timber harvester John Hartman, who speaks about his two draft horses, Stella and Dolly, and their work at Highfields Farm in Danbury, North Carolina.
Under Mr. Hartman’s direction, Stella and Dolly are helping with preparations by extracting trees for which the owners at Highfields Farm will eventually process onsite to become a future barn, small cabin, and run-in shed. Through the use of actual horsepower, the owners of Highfields Farm are able to supply their very local resources in a manner that maintains a small footprint and is also less destructive to its environment. For further details about the horses and their work at Highfields Farm, read Clay’s article here (which starts on page 6) from Holistic Horse Magazine. This practice once again reminds me that some of the greenest techniques are often the simplest and perhaps most overlooked.
We haven’t received our copy of the March 2010 issue of Dressage Today yet (the DC blizzard last week made it nearly impossible for mail delivery in the District). If you have the March issue handy, please take a minute to read my response in the Ask the Experts section of the magazine and let me know how I did. The question I was presented with: What difference does a green barn make to a horse? What are the most important elements to consider when designing sustainably?
That question came from Diane Barber, owner of the Los Angeles-based firm Equestrian Designery – Interior Design for Equestrians, which specializes in—you guessed it—equestrian-style interior design. Diane is also an avid equestrian and author of several articles about her equestrian experiences for publications like Dressage Today. Some of her work may be viewed on her Web site here.
Anyway, I’m not sure if this particular Q & A will make it to the Equisearch Web site, home of magazines like Dressage Today and Practical Horseman, but they do maintain an online compilation of Ask the Experts that you may be interested in reading.
In recognition of Earth Day, my firm announced a new division in design called Blackburn greenbarns. Starting with four ready-to-build horse-barn designs, we hope these barns are an affordable alternative to custom design. Of course, as the name implies, all the designs are green–in three ways: through passive design solutions, green materials and finishes, and additional design services to implement green systems such as solar panels.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about greenbarns and our new Web site at www.blackburngreenbarns.com. Please visit it and let us know what you think!
Wikipedia describes Green washing, combining the concepts of “Green” and “Whitewashing,” as the misleading practices of a company that creates the appearance of a positive environmental impact with its products or services. Green sheen is another term for the same attempt to mislead consumers.
The true greening of American business is a positive trend in which a company reassesses its practices and effects changes that have a true positive impact on the environment or at least a less destructive impact than previous practices. Selling your product or service as if it were green is a scam. NPR did a story several months ago on the practice and listed the “six sins of greenwashing,” including hidden tradeoffs, vague claims, and out and out lying.
When it comes to planning and building your equestrian facilities—stables and arenas primarily—Blackburn Architects has been designing with true-blue green elements for 25 years. Here is a list of sustainable elements that you can incorporate into your facility planning without any worry that you’ve been subjected to greenwashing.
- First, evaluate existing farm buildings for adaptive reuse opportunities. Don’t assume that old barns must be torn down. It is always greener to reuse than it is to destroy and discard. (Born Again, Washington Post Magazine)
- If a building is too damaged structurally to preserve, consider re-using as many materials as possible. Better to re-use old wood in your project than to send it off to the local landfill. (Second Chances, Green Builder Magazine)
- Look for local materials for your project. If there is local wood or stone that can be incorporated into your design, you are saving the energy required to transport materials and this can be a significant environmental savings. Local materials also help your design fit the landscape naturally, as if it belongs on the site.
- Search out opportunities to use recycled materials and renewable resources. For example, numerous flooring products are available now that are made from recycled tires, including Pavesafe. When choosing lumber, make certain that you are selecting species that are renewable and not stressed—harvesting redwood, teak, mahogany, and many other types of wood creates severe environmental costs. Buyer beware though: so called green products may be where you’re most likely to run into vague product descriptions and flat out lies. Two independent companies, EcoLogo and Green Seal attempt to provide an easy way of discerning whether a product is eco-friendly. Look for those labels.
- Plan your stables with the forces of nature working for you, placing structures within your site to use the sun and prevailing winds. (Potential Energy, Western Horseman Magazine)
- Passive lighting can save power, reduce fire risk, and improve the health status of your animals.
- Passive ventilation creates the healthiest possible indoor environment for your horses without the use of electricity.
While no one can be all green all the time (take it from Kermit, it isn’t easy being green), every REAL step is a step in the right direction. Just don’t let yourself be sold on a faux-green product. Remember the early years of the organic food movement—no regulation resulted in false and misleading claims and high-ticket prices adding insult to injury. It took a long time for consumer protection laws to catch up with false claims.
I really hope you’re enjoying my new stable-minded blog. It’s here to help provide a professional source of information, to be a place to exchange design ideas, address barn problems, discuss the ways an architect can impact horse health and safety, and to help guide you to sustainable choices in the design of your facility. Equestrian structures can go green with cost-effective design choices. For example, there are many options for preserving, restoring and adapting old barns to new uses. You might be interested in a project we did a few years ago that converted a 150-year-old bank barn into a guesthouse.
I have been thinking green throughout my career and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Let me hear from you. What do you think? How is your barn working or not working? Let me know what’s on your mind.
Looking forward to hearing from you.