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Behind the Bit: A Blog on My Radar


I’ve recently found a new equine blog that an equestrian named Stacey writes called Behind the Bit. OK, I may have found the blog by Googling “Blackburn Architects,” the name of my firm. Still, I was happy to see that Stacey wrote an entry about dream barns and one of our designs was her inspiration. (I’m a sucker for flattery when it comes to design.)

Regardless, I’d like to share the link to her blog as well as the guest blog entry I recently wrote for her about the merits of custom designed barns versus prefab and kits.

I’ll post that immediately following this entry.


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Bank Barn Renovation Update: Part III

Here are a few more photos of the progress underway at the bank barn adaptive reuse project in Ohio.   Exterior

This one shows the almost finished slate, shingle roofing a bit closer so you can see the detail in the pattern. Notice all the beautiful evergreens–the property is a former Christmas tree farm.


The three-tiered cribbing will showcase the green views that extend for miles.

Radiant Heating

The radiant heating along the floor.

Interior windows

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Wild, Wild Horses: HR 1018, Restore our American Mustangs Act

I’ve mentioned it before, but Wayne Pacelle of The Humane Society of the United States writes a terrific blog called A Humane Nation that highlights issues specific to animal protection and animal rights. Often his topics turn to horse-related issues. On July 17, the blog discusses HR 1018: Restore our American Mustangs Act. Are you aware of this piece of legislature?

As many of you know, several hundred thousand wild horses and burros are rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal entity that “protects, manages, and controls wild horses and burros under the authority of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971,” according to its Web site. Mr. Pacelle asserts that the BLM has mishandled this issue, which has led to the holding of “approximately 31,000 wild horses in captivity, with taxpayers footing the bill.” For Pacelle and other animal rights activists, the BLM has strayed from their purpose to protect these wild horses and burros as symbols of American culture: Instead, these animals are rounded up and held captive. With more animals than the BLM can handle, the group may resort to slaughter–according to Pacelle–which is sure to inflame the masses.

The HR 1018 bill, which passed in the House and will move on to the Senate, advocates for new protections and reinforces the original intent of the BLM by ensuring adequate land is available, fertility control measures are taken, the BLM adoption plan is promoted, and animals are protected against slaughter, among other aspects.

With no natural predators, the BLM notes that herd sizes can double about every four years and that the “ideal” number of horses and burros the Bureau can handle on their land is about 26,000. The bill will help provide better management so that the nearly 37,000 horses and burros that roam on the federal land in 10 western states (a number that exceeds their “ideal” by 10,000) are protected, and that the approximately 30,000 horses and burros held in captivity is controlled.

From user defrostindoors

From user defrostindoors












For more information, visit:

For another side of the story, visit:

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Drop by Drop: Water Conservation Tips for your Barn

Recently, I spoke with LA Pomeroy, a writer from Holistic Horse Magazine to discuss Blackburn greenbarns and, in particular, the idea of implementing some sort of water conservation system into farms. I thought it might make for a good blog topic while I’m at it. (Also, be sure to check out her article featuring “10 Eco-Friendly Tips for Barns” in the September issue of the magazine.)

In the past I’ve written about harvesting rainwater (sometimes called stormwater), which can be very effective for a barn due to its large roof. Greywater systems, on the other hand, are created from the runoff/greywater from household appliances like showers, dishwashers, and washing machines. Of course, you’ll probably get some runoff from wash stalls or washing machines in the barn, but the amount of greywater from barns is somewhat limited compared with the potential from the roof. (Although, the laws for rainwater harvesting vary state by state. For example, it’s severely restricted in Colorado.) Still, a greywater system is something to consider for your barn as well as your home.

In any case, the most important factor to consider regarding water conservation systems is your needs, i.e., how much water is needed to clean a stall or irrigate the land. Since the size of the system largely determines its cost, you’ll want to make sure your system is designed to take full advantage to collect and reuse effectively.

Once your system is in place (note: many states require a permit from your local or city government), greywater can be used for any non-potable (non drinking water) needs for your barn such as landscape irrigation, washing horses, and mucking stalls. While soap residue found in greywater can actually add nutrients such as phosphorous and potassium to the soil, which reduces the need to fertilize, it can also contain bacteria or other harmful microorganisms that can be harmful. Therefore, greywater should never be used on vegetable gardens.



More affordable systems tend to be above-ground, so careful planning will help maximize the useable space around the barn while accounting for enough greywater storage to fit your needs. Also, depending on your location, greywater systems must be located within a designated distance from certain facilities, such as domestic water lines or septic tanks. A design professional or plumber can usually help specify a location as well as the appropriate pumps and equipment.

Another item to consider towards conserving more water in your barn is updating or carefully choosing plumbing fixtures. If you’re currently building, make sure to incorporate water-efficient plumbing fixtures. Or, retrofit your old fixtures by swapping out faucet caps and showerheads (if applicable) for water-efficient fixtures. Also, while it may seem obvious to some, be sure to seal any leaks in pipes.

Finally, you might think about updating appliances to save water. While there are definitely upfront costs, savings over time can be significant, not to mention significant to the environment. For example, high-efficient washing machines use less than 28 gallons of water per load. Traditional machines use approximately 41, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA also states that toilet models from 1992 and earlier most likely use about 3.5 gallons per flush compared with 1.3 for a WaterSense (a partnership program sponsored by the EPA) labeled toilet. Using those numbers, that’s approximately $90 in annual savings on your water bill.

Another appliance that can make a large impact on your water bills (and heating bill) is the water heater. This might make more sense for your residence, but solar water heaters are as the name implies: powered by the sun. When installed for domestic use, you can receive a tax credit of 30%. Tankless water heaters or instantaneous water heaters also conserve energy and need to heat less water.

Listen to NPR’s report on greywater:

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Bank Barn Renovation Update

I thought I’d share some photos of the ongoing renovation of the bank barn project in Ohio. The last time I wrote, the barn–which is being converted into a guest house–had just been relocated to a new position on the site in order to maximize views. (An important feature considering the extensive porch/decking that will outfit the rear of the barn.)

Recently, the crew installed SIPS panels on the roof and walls to insulate the barn without compromising the old barn’s interior. The exterior of the SIPS were then clad in reclaimed barn wood to give the exterior the same “old barn” feel as the interior while still providing the owner with the modern comforts expected in today’s homes. The original slate shingle was carefully removed and replaced with SIPS attached to the original roof boards. We never anticipated reusing all of the original slate, for fear that too much of it would break, but I’m happy to report that– in the end– no new slate was needed.

A lot of care has gone into maintaining and restoring the original character of the barn including the replication of the original rafter tails and the thin profile of the roof overhang. The four louver windows on the front and rear of the building were replicated as well as the large (soon-to-be-louvered) windows at both gabled ends. The louvers at the front and rear are hinged like an old fashion shutter, concealing the operable, double hung low-e windows. The large barn doors at the front can close across the entire window wall and entrance for maximum privacy or security.

The next phase will complete the interior work (including the grand fireplace that is a centerpiece of the large open living area) and construct the porch and decking at the rear of the barn.

Exterior of the Bank BarnInterior of the Bank Barn

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Sagamore Farm

One of our recent projects, Sagamore Farm, was written about in the May 10, 2009 issue of the Baltimore Sun. The article details the owner’s plans to revitalize the thoroughbred racing industry in Maryland.

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The Rosemount Center

One of Blackburn’s projects, The Rosemount Center, was in the news when actress Jennifer Garner visited the daycare and preschool facility to read and visit with students. The center was also recently honored by the Historic Mount Pleasant for the restoration.

The Rosemount Center

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Blackburn greenbarns: visit our new Web site!

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 Please visit it and let us know what you think!


We call this model "The Hickory." It is designed for warm climates to provide natural cooling and ventilation

We call this model "The Hickory." It is designed for warm climates to provide natural cooling and ventilation

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Stable Scoop Radio Show

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I haven’t forgotten. We’ve been busy developing a new project which I’ll share with you in a few days. We’re really excited about it and I’ll be interested to hear your (honest) feedback.

In the meantime, have you ever listened to Stable Scoop? It’s a show on the Horse Radio Network, which you can also listen to online. I was asked to be a guest for one of the shows. While I–like a lot of people–hate hearing my voice on a recording, I thought I’d share the link and introduce you to the show if you haven’t listened before. The two hosts, Helena B. and Glenn the Geek make for a pretty amusing show all-around. Just don’t mind the rambling guest architect!

Stable Scoop logo

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Have you seen this?

Ancient Origins Horse Diorama by Matt Shanley/AMNH 


Ancient Origins Horse Diorama by Matt Shanley/AMNH


Wayne Pacelle, of the Humane Society of the US, has a fantastic blog that I like to read whenever I get a chance. The other day, he wrote about an exhibit that just ran in Pittsburgh called “The Horse.” It ran in New York previously. Did any of you get a chance to check it out? I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts if you have. 


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