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.
An associate of mine runs a great email list that features news and happenings in the equestrian community. The other day, the email contained an article from Maryland’s Prince George’s County section of The Gazette. Written by Zoe Tilman, the article is about a horse industry task force up for vote in Prince George’s County. With several states adding slots venues (such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware), the pressure is on the equine industry to take advantage of its potential revenue power, especially in regard to racinos—the combination of a casino with thoroughbred racing.
Tilman’s article points out that Prince George’s County isn’t necessarily well known for its equine industry, but that the County is interested in spreading the word in order to garner interest and recognition throughout the state. If approved (a vote is expected sometime this month), the horse task force will bring together “state and local equine industry groups and economic development agencies.”
While I believe racinos are fun and have their time and place, I do wish there were more public equestrian facilities and parks. However, it seems that many states are becoming desperate to get out of the red, so to speak, and look at slots/gambling as a way out.
A few days ago, I came across Tammy La Gorce’s article about how equestrian vaulting–“gymnastics on horseback”–is gaining popularity in areas across New York. The article follows one particularly determined performer named Miranda Marcantuno, 11, who has been riding since she was six.
I thought the multimedia slide show was fun to look through to see the young riders practicing stunts on cantering horses that you might expect from circus performers. You can read the article here.
Also, check out the American Vaulting Association for more details about the sport.
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.
If you haven’t yet, please read this article by Joe Drape for the New York Times about the malnourished and neglected horses found at Ernie Paragallo’s farm in upstate New York. In April of this year, the thoroughbred breeder and owner Paragallo was arrested and eventually charged with 35 counts of cruelty to animals. Since then, horse lovers across the county have come to the rescue for many of these animals. While that doesn’t change what these horses went through, it’s comforting to reaffirm what most of us already know: that the horse community is filled with people who are willing to go the extra mile to help a horse in need.
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.