John Blackburn

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10.15.19

Optimizing Winter Protection in a Horse Barn Without Compromising Ventilation

Q: I’m in the process of planning a barn in Missouri, and finances require an economical metal post-and-frame structure. I’ve studied Blackburn’s ventilation and lighting philosophies and will incorporate them as best I can.

My question is about orienting the barn. I plan to have a center aisle, with exterior Dutch doors in every stall. Each 12’x12’ stall will have an exit to the main 12’ aisle as well as to an outside run-in. The stalls will be used primarily during more extreme weather or when I need to confine a horse due to injury or illness, otherwise the horses will be outside. Overhangs on both sides of the barn will function as run-in shelters for the paddocks.

I know from your writings that the ideal orientation is perpendicular to the prevailing summer breeze. However, because Missouri’s cold winter winds are from the same direction, the horses on that side of the barn won’t have wind protection when in the run-in areas. I know that’s less of a problem for owners who keep their horses in stalls most of the time, so I’ve not been able to find an answer to this question. I will obviously allow them access to the stalls during the bitter cold weather we get, but for most of the winter all they need is some windbreak. How do I optimize winter protection without compromising ventilation?

Thanks,

Worried about Winter

++++++++++++

A: Orientation is certainly very important when siting your barn. But because wind is always changing and its direction and velocity can be affected by terrain, other structures, and vegetation, the angle is not a hard and fast rule.  It’s good to try and locate the barn perpendicular to the prevailing summer breeze but that also depends on the design of your barn.  If you have lived on the farm a few years you may know the particular wind patterns for your property.

The design of the barn is as critical – if not more so – than the orientation.  How and where you permit air to enter the barn (preferably along the low wall along the long side of the barn and at the eaves where the roof joins the side walls), and where it is allowed to exhaust are critical.  In some areas, it may be necessary to provide some form of close-able dampers on the low wall vents to control the wind and temperature that can impact a horse that is in the stall but doesn’t have the flexibility to get away from it.

The environment within the barn should be within 8 to 10 degrees of the temperature on the outside.  Your barn should ventilate vertically to reduce the horizontal movement of bacterial- and moisture-laden air.

We always say the best environment for the horse is outdoors where it can make its own choices about its environment and health. A naturally-kept horse should be able to get out of the hot sun and find shade or get out of a cold wind in a shelter or behind a wind block.

By turning your horses out most of the time you are certainly on the right track for happy, healthy animals.

Missouri’s winter weather isn’t so extreme that it prevents you from a center aisle barn with stalls on both sides.  Orient your barn so that turnouts are on the windward side of the barn and leave the Dutch doors open so your horses can get inside away from the wind.  For the turnouts on the cold windward side of the barn, blanket the horses.  And keep their winter coats unclipped.

Since you’ve read “Healthy Stables by Design,” you know that Blackburn designs typically use the chimney effect and the Bernoulli principle to create natural ventilation. Our barns become passively designed machines that work to provide healthy conditions for the horses inside.

Good luck with your new barn!

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06.24.19

Keeping Them Healthy: Thoughts on the Design and Installation of Dry Lots on Horse Farms

Let’s talk about dry lots. Essential on nearly every equine facility, dry lots vary widely in size, location and construction.

By nature, of course, horses are herd animals evolved to roam and graze on sparse prairies.  We’ve introduced a complete change to the evolutionary process – incorporating diets of grain and lush pastures. The resultant problems are many, but our solution is simple. Limit the horses’ activities or diet as you give them access to open air and light.  

Blackburn recommends dry lots on most, if not all, of the farms we design. Sadly, too many farms have unintentional dry lots because of inadequate pasture management.

Why create a healthy dry lot?
1. Control the horse’s diet.
2. Preserve paddocks thru rotation.
3. Control moisture and its effect on hooves.

Here are nine things to consider:

Location: Choose a place close to the barn for ease of access.  Provide adequate sized gates for horses but also an occasional vehicle.  Select a relatively flat location but one that drains well and isn’t too isolated so horses can socialize but generally remain separated.  

Materials: The footing should be firm but not hard packed.  It must be designed to drain well to allow moisture to either drain thru or away without causing erosion. Sandy soil is preferable but some sort of gravel that is easy on the feet or, even better, an engineered footing similar to your arena should work perfectly. 

Size:  The size can vary, but if you are creating the dry lot to limit the horses’ movement for health reasons, you may want it to be smaller than larger.  We recommend multiple dry lots of varying sizes to accommodate many uses.

Fencing:  It goes without saying that your fencing needs to be sturdy. See Activities below.

Shelters: Some form of shade shelter for fly & weather protection is preferred – by humans, but horses may never darken the interior.

Feeding: Various forms of slow feeders, salt blocks, etc. can be used.  If you are restricting the horse’s diet, we recommend consulting with your vet about setting up a feeding regimen that can be incorporated into your use of the dry lot.

Activities:  Spreading hay rations around the lot encourages movement; toys for activity or human interaction can be very helpful.  We always recommend consulting with your veterinarian because no two horses are the same. You and your vet know what’s best for your horse.

Socialization:  Locating the dry lot close to other horses reduces stress and is more emotionally relaxing.

Footing: The dry lot surface should provide a safe and comfortable footing for horses but it must also drain well.  Therefore, we recommend that the upper surface/footing be 4 to 6 inches of footing material (stone dust, sand, engineered footing material as described above a drainage layer) or possibly 8 to 12 inches of pea gravel, allowing the foot to sink in without undue pressure on sensitive areas.  The drainage layer can be 1/2 inch to 1 inch stones. You can add an interlocking grid within this layer to provide additional stability of the base layer and improve drainage.

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01.25.19

Ground Surface Materials: 10 Recommendations for the Exterior of a Horse Barn

One of the design considerations in nearly every Blackburn equestrian project is ground surface materials to be used at the exterior of the barn. Hopefully, the information below will be helpful in planning for your barn.

First consideration is it to be porous vs. non porous?
Either will work in this application but you need to build in some sort of drainage system for both, either on the surface or below the surface.  

1)  Interlocking rubber brick pavers.  The Blackburn Architects’ team opinion is that this is the best all-around flooring system for horses because of its durability and aesthetic options.  It’s slip resistant and holds up to abuse and in a wide variety of environmental and weather conditions.  It can be set loose on a porous or non-porous sub-base or glued down on a firm base like concrete.

2)  Oil base chip and seal: Chip seal is a surface treatment used on light traffic roadways/driveways, some lead paths and other areas used for horse or farm traffic.  We do not use it very often anymore due to some environmental concerns in some jurisdictions (it typically requires a base layer of asphalt and oil as a binder).  Chip seal basically combines one or more layers of asphalt with one or more layer of aggregate. Oil is often used as a binder. Ground up recycled tires are sometimes used as an aggregate.  It tends to be slip resistant though it may deteriorate in time.  Its life time is typically 5 to 7 years before it needs re-surfacing.  

3)  Rubber mats (loose laid or glued): This is a good material but should be laid or glued to a concrete or popcorn asphalt base.  The mats need a solid base in order to hold in place or remain level over time.  Rubber mats can present an aesthetic issue but functionally work well.

4)  Stone dust or brick dust:  A good material to use but requires maintenance to retain a clean and orderly look.  It’s slip resistant and drains relatively well.  Not good for plowing conditions unless it is re-spread at the end of the winter season.

5)  Popcorn asphalt:  An excellent material because it’s slip resistant and drains well.  Its problem is its aesthetic appearance.  It should be laid over a layer of crushed gravel so the surface water can drain through the asphalt and away.  The advantage of the popcorn asphalt is it has the ability to reseal itself in warm weather if the ground freezes and heaves.  It can also be used as a base layer under rubber mats or rubber bricks.

6)  Concrete (custom colored and/or textured) or concrete pavers:  Not a very horse-friendly material to use.  It can be scored to give it texture, tinted to give it color and in some cases a brick pattern, but it is nevertheless a very unforgiving material.  Horses shoes can slip on it and spook a horse especially when crossing from one material to another.  However, this material is great when installed under the interlocking rubber brick or rubber mats.

7)  Poured in place non slip surface material:  This is a good material (a number of different types and manufacturers available) that can be slip resistant, cushioned to protect from a fall and can be used outdoors.  It is often used on playgrounds.  Blackburn Architects uses it most often in foaling stalls where a seamless continuous surface is desired.

8)  Grass ground cover:  Not recommended due to its maintenance needs especially when under cover.

9)  Grid mats:  Can work if the owner wants to use stone or brick dust or some other type of light screenings but requires periodic maintenance.

10)  Brick or stone:  Not highly recommended as it is less slip resistant though it can look great, especially if brick dust is used elsewhere such as the driveway in a chip and seal application.

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01.09.19

Adding Stalls to an Indoor Riding Arena? Good Idea or Not?

Adding Stalls to an Indoor Arena

Over the years, Blackburn has been asked what we think of adding stalls along the side of an indoor arena. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, we strongly recommend against it. The problems are many.

1. Air Quality. Forced to breathe arena dust many hours of the day, stalled horses live in an environment that isn’t healthy. We recommend instead that the stall portion of the stables be connected in a separate but attached structure running perpendicular to the barn. Not only does this arrangement help isolate the arena dust from the barn, it allows the barn to sit independently. The structure can then catch the prevailing breeze which permits two scientific principles (Bernoulli principle and the chimney effect) to provide natural ventilation and light to the barn.

2. Fire Safety. We always recommend fire separations by providing sliding doors to isolate the barn from the arena in case of fire. These doors may or may not be rated fire separations. The decision is usually driven by cost, and we often provide an automatic rolling fire rated shutter to isolate the two separate areas – this at least reduces the risk of smoke moving between structures. (Quite often it’s the smoke that is more dangerous and faster moving than the actual fire.) The isolation by sliding doors also provides critical time to get horses out of barn. If the arena and barn share the same space, there is less opportunity to isolate fire or smoke from the stable area. Furthermore, when the stables are parallel and part of the arena, the structure is generally shared – raising the risk it could collapse and trap horses inside.

3. Cost, Scale and Building Height. When stalls are designed as part of an indoor arena, the design requires a wider structure (often steel due to the long spans) which is typically more expensive. When it’s a separate but attached structure, it can be framed in wood with smaller spans reducing the cost of the framing. If the stalls are part of the indoor arena, then the building becomes wider which also means a corresponding height increase. In many areas, the local zoning codes restrict building heights. We have found typical restrictions of 35 feet. It’s difficult to get any height in the barn or arena if you are trying to build a 100 x 200 ft arena with a row of stalls and aisle way. Also, from an aesthetic perspective, wider and taller building begin to get enormous and have the potential to look like an airplane hangar and overshadow the entire farm.

4. Storm Water Issues. Finally, if your property is not flat, such a structure with a large footprint may require significant grading that can be expensive and create storm water issues. By breaking the barn and arena into two connected structures you can more easily work it into the natural slope of the land. Also, the isolation of the barn and arena permits opportunities to push the arena into the ground – helping to reduce the scale and height of the arena above finish grade. The entry to an observation area can be elevated above the arena floor (but entry level still at grade) for more easily viewing over the kick wall from a sitting position.

Blackburn has designed many arenas with this perpendicular arrangement. Rocana Farm, designed by us in 2002, is a great example of what we mean. Stalls at this hunter/jumper facility are attached to the enclosed arena with an elevated observation room, tack room, wash and grooming stalls.

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10.19.18

Fencing When Designing a Horse Farm: Options to Consider

Sagamore_insta

Fences are one of the most common discussion points among the Blackburn team and clients when we’re designing an equestrian facility. The options listed below are certainly not exhaustive but reflect what we commonly find in many of our projects.

Some options are better suited for pastures, while others are more appropriate for small stall turnouts. We’ve tried to identify a variety of approaches that meet the safety needs for horses, limit maintenance needs, and often fall within neighborhood guidelines. 

1. Steel rail fencing is an option for stable turnouts. The material is available in a thinner profile so it isn’t as visually heavy and it can be painted black or another dark color so that it does not have the “ranch” appearance seen with galvanized steel pipe corrals. The up-front cost is higher but the material is durable and will have little-to-no maintenance needs.

2. Woodguard polymer coated wood fencing is treated wood with a non-toxic, non-chipping surface covering. The wood grain is still visible but the finish has some of the plastic texture of the polymer. This product allows for fencing to be constructed similar to a wood fence, with the rails attached to the face of the posts. The result is a stronger, safer fence. Woodguard has a 20-year warranty. The cost is similar to wood board fencing but the maintenance needs are less. While the manufacturers state that this product is resistant to cribbing, we would recommend that a hot-wire be provided at the top rail to discourage the horses from chewing. This material would be acceptable to use for both stall turnouts and paddocks. It offers the appearance of a traditional 3- or 4-board wood fence without the significant maintenance demands. https://www.wood-guard.com/horse-fencing/

3. High Tensile Polymer (HTP) comes in both rail and wire styles and is typically mounted on wood posts. The rail is typically 5” wide and from a distance will appear similar to wood board fencing. Because wire fencing has a lower visibility, we suggest using a thicker top board so that the horses can more easily identify the barrier. The HTP materials’ inherent flexibility makes these products durable and resistant to horses leaning on or running into the fence. Typically, these are more suited to large pastures or for perimeter fencing and less so for stall turnouts. The darker colors tend to exhibit a chalky appearance over time.

4. Rubber fencing is a durable, flexible, and low profile fencing material and is similar to the HTP fencing. We’ve not seen this product used as often and we understand that there’s a risk that the strings of the fabric (which is an internal support for the rubber) can become exposed and offer a hazard for horses to chew on. A hot-wire at the top of the fence may combat this risk.

The advantages of rubber, HTP or any type strap fencing is the posts can be set further apart which is useful when its highly visible and you want to minimize the number of posts. The fencing is flexible and resists breaking when a limb or tree falls on it therefore it’s a good material for perimeter fencing large acreage and where it encounters wooded areas. This is safer if/when a horse runs into the fence; especially a problem on larger paddocks when horses can get some speed and not be able to slow down.

5. HDPE is a post and board fencing material. It’s stronger than PVC and performs better in all weather conditions, but the primary issue is in the assembly of the fence. The rails are set between posts, instead of fastened to the face, and can pop out if the fence is not secured properly. Its requires more frequent posts which tends to look busy and it’s difficult to bend or angle corners because of the assembly method. The Blackburn team isn’t particularly fond of this material because it can look clunky and isn’t the safest option. http://www.amberwayequine.com/products/hdpe-fencing-2/

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04.24.18

Retrofitting an Existing Barn Roof with Skylights & Vents

Sagamore 5With careful attention to design details, it is possible to retrofit your barn to be healthier for your horses. One important renovation to existing built structures is the addition of skylights and ridge vents to increase light and air flow.

Only a fortunate few horse owners design and build a barn from the ground up. Most buy a property with an existing barn. As the photos illustrate, Blackburn Architects’ client Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour®, bought historic Sagamore Farm in Maryland, and undertook a significant renovation to add light and ventilation to the interior of his historic main barn.

Significant expenditures are not necessary, however. In this discussion, I’m offering simple recommendations for achieving healthier living space for horses starting with an existing barn.

VENTING OPTIONS

For venting an existing barn roof, I suggest one of two options:
1) Add Dutch doors along the barn sides or
2) Add a vent along the bottom edge of the skylight (or ridge if that works best though I prefer the curb vent for better free air access).

Option 1: Add Dutch doors along the barn sides
This option provides good access for ventilation to each stall and a great method of controlling air flow. An owner has the option of leaving just the upper door open to reduce the flow or open both upper and lower doors to give maximum free area. (Of course, in order to open both doors for full access you’ll need to add an interior mesh panel to keep horse in the stall.) If Dutch doors aren’t possible or within the budget, then I recommend adding low wall vents to bring in air low to the floor (which is good for foals and to vent odors caused by ammonia gases near the floor). The vents should be dampered for air control and screened to keep rodents from getting into stalls.

Additionally, Dutch doors provide an abundance of natural light, which reduces the need for electric lighting in the barn and helps purify the stall flooring, reducing the creation of harmful ammonia gases.

Option 2: Add a vent along the bottom edge of the skylight (or ridge)
This option allows for vertical ventilation of the barn using the Bernoulli Principle and the chimney effect. Though the existing barn may not have the best angle for prevailing breezes or roof slope, it will help nevertheless. I also recommend vents at the top of the wall at the roof eave if they can be added. This permits year-round ventilation above the heads of the horses, but still ventilates the barn vertically using the techniques described above.

ADDING SKYLIGHTS

There are a variety of methods and materials that can be used to retrofit skylights into an existing roof. At Sagamore Farm, Blackburn Architects’ design replaced the existing shingles with a new metal roof (not necessary; Sagamore’s roof shingles were worn out and metal was chosen as a better long term material). In more typical circumstances where the existing shingles are salvageable, simply remove the shingles along the ridge and cut out the sheathing or sub roofing material, leaving only the roof rafters.

Continuous curbs should be built along the edge of the opening. Although a continuous skylight or curb is not necessary, I find it aesthetically and functionally preferable. A skylight can then be placed on top of the curbs spanning from one side of the aisle to the other. The curb can and should be vented. The size and amount of free area depends on the barn design, size and location. The skylight width does not have to span the full width of the aisle but somewhere between 8 to 12 feet should be adequate.

The skylight can be either glass (costly and should be safety glass) or some form of polycarbonate. Check your local building codes for requirements. I do not recommend clear glazing. Translucent glazing reduces the visibility of dirt and filters light, which better serves the barn interior. It’s best not to let a strong band of sunlight hit a stalled horse for a long period of time. I also recommend painting the interior of the roof and framing members a light color to improve reflectance.

If a continuous skylight is not possible, then individual roof skylights can be installed over the center aisle. However, if the skylights are not high on the roof and are not vented, they may not do much to increase the barn’s vertical ventilation.

If the barn has a loft it may be possible to remove it, leaving specific structural members spanning across the barn to hold the building together and to provide wind shear strength to the barn. If the loft is used for hay storage (which I don’t recommended for health and safety reasons), then it may be possible to remove a portion of the loft over the aisle leaving the loft in place over the stall for storage or the reverse of that (remove the loft over the stall but leave it in place over the aisle).

While these approaches to increasing light and ventilation in existing structures can work wonders, you should always contact a structural engineer before installation of skylights to determine if the barn can take the modifications needed of if some additional structural work needs to be done.

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02.23.18

Do You Need a Site Plan?

IMG_0541Today I got a call from a client who’s buying 120 acres in North Carolina and plans to build a new equestrian center. It’s been years since horses have been on the property. The pastures and paddocks are overgrown. The fences are in disrepair. The property has steeply sloped areas but the client wants a dressage ring. Drainage will be an issue. Together, we’ll figure out a way forward by starting with a Site Plan to map the future; completing the owner’s vision in budgeted stages over several years.

A site plan is completed by studying topography, wind and solar directions, neighborhood easements, height restrictions, zoning restrictions, soils and operational necessities (where are roads, pastures, barns, storage sheds, etc.), There are many benefits to putting together this “roadmap” for future use of the farm property. Consider that there are three major categories of costs when planning to bring horses onto your property: 1. Operational, 2. Environmental, and 3. Infrastructure. Proper planning will save you money in all three areas. Fewer roads, less fencing, better drainage all ensure that the whole farm, not just the horse barn but the entire collection of structures on the site, operates efficiently and safely.

Operational Considerations: First locate where you’ll put the horses – where is your turnout? Where will you store hay, equipment, or vehicles? Do you have access for manure pickup, large-truck deliveries, guests or visitors? Minimizing the number of steps necessary for your daily routine (turnout, stall mucking, etc.) will save labor time, which of course you know is money in the farm biz. Planning will also preserve space for paddocks.

Environmental Considerations: Figure out structure placement within your acreage. It’s important to properly orient any new buildings in the landscape. We design our barns to generate their own ventilation, placing them perpendicular to prevailing summer breezes. (One of many design considerations for maximizing light and ventilation, which is a subject I’ve written about often.) Additionally, placing structures where the land will drain easily makes good sense and will save you and your horses potentially hours of muddy misery or the cost of constantly replacing eroded footing.

Infrastructure Considerations: Fewer roads to maintain means fewer dollars spent.

Creating a master plan does not mean that every part of it needs be built at once. The plan may end up taking years to implement, but as each new structure or paddock is added, it isn’t done in the usual haphazard way. It will save you from asking, “You know, I could use a tractor shed somewhere?” Even those with very limited budgets should consider getting the advice of an expert at the planning stage, given the importance of the optimum farm layout.

Bringing in a professional to carefully plan a site doesn’t mean you need to commit to having a custom barn designed. Blackburn Architects’ guidance can help whether you’re purchasing a kit barn, designing a custom barn, or renovating existing structures. A site plan stands by itself as a service we greatly enjoy delivering to clients across the country.

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02.05.18

Celebrate a New Barn in 2020

beechwood aisle_small
Been thinking about a custom barn, or buying property with existing structures that need an extensive overhaul?

I thought I’d take a minute and explain Blackburn Architects’ process for designing a new equestrian facility and overseeing its construction. While not carved in stone, for planning purposes, can easily become a two-year process.

The first step is usually a visit by me or another Blackburn architect. The initial meeting is our first chance to meet, walk the site, look at any existing buildings and discuss the project goals. I’m a firm believer in “a picture is worth a thousand words” but “being there is worth a thousand pictures” Following this, we’ll send a proposal for service, which outlines the process and fees.
Once a contract signed, we get to work immediately.

The timeline usually looks something like this:
• 6 to 10 weeks for Feasibility Study, Site Assessment and Master Plan
• 1 to 2 months for Schematic Design
• 2 to 4 months for Design Development and Construction Drawings
• 1 to 2 months for Permitting
• 12 to 16 months for Construction

At Blackburn Architects, equestrian design starts with the horse and ends with a building that fits the horse, the owner, and the surrounding environment like a glove. It’s as simple and beautiful as that.

Let’s explain the steps in greater detail:

Feasibility Study / Site Assessment / Master Plan
The goal of the Feasibility Study is to determine, as early in the process as possible, whether the intended project fits the owner’s program, the site, and the budget.

We assess any existing building(s) and the site. We take measurements to determine if an in-place structure will work for the goals of the project. We study the land until we come to a clear understanding of wind and solar direction, soils, changes in elevation – all natural and architectural characteristics that guide placement and design of any new buildings. Central to the success of the project, this “Master Plan” addresses all these things and more, providing a road map for the success of all future phases of our work.

The site analysis also includes a review of applicable zoning and easements for the property; we determine what (if any) limitations or restrictions may apply at the property. Land disturbance allowances? Height restrictions? Set-backs?

In tandem with the site evaluation (as soon as we have a contract), we send the client a unique Blackburn Architects questionnaire that we’ve developed over the years. Answers are collected and inform the design; starting off the process with clear direction from the client. It is extensive and though it covers about 25 pages, once it is completed it “paints” a picture of exactly how you would like your farm to operate. The efficiency of the operation is critical and can have a huge impact on your operating cost and maintenance budget.

Schematic Design
Moving seamlessly from the master planning phase (often there is a fuzzy line here where one ends and another starts), we start schematic design. In this step, we help our clients visualize the project design with a variety of techniques using both computer and hand renderings to illustrate the scale and the relationship of the project elements. Ideas, concepts, goals take form at this stage.

Budget Development
Once we’ve worked up outline specifications for the work, we can begin to get a rough idea of the costs. At this point we will either develop a rough estimate based on our 35 years experience with over 300 farm projects, consult with a professional cost estimator or a builder who is familiar with the building type in your location.

Design Development and Construction Documents
Once we have the site layout, design, and budget, drawings and other documents give serious form to interior and exterior finishes, and firmly establish the size, character, and details of the project. These documents will be used by our professional consultants to design the electrical, gas, and other utilities. When these systems are defined, and we have a basic finish schedule and budget, we’re ready to file for the permit and start construct of the building.

Bidding and Construction Administration
With the construction documents complete, we can help clients select a contracting company through a “bidding” process for the work, or we can work with a client’s pre-selected Construction Manager. We work side-by-side with our clients to ensure that the best and most informed decisions are made during this process.

While in my experience this process typically lasts about 18 to 24 months, a lot of this depends on factors that are outside of either our control or our clients. The time of year and weather, for instance, can greatly influence how fast construction progresses, especially in colder climates. Pastures have a growing season, and they need at least a year (maybe two) to establish.

Designing and constructing a custom facility is a very subjective process, which is guided by all kinds of factors including the complexity and size of the structures, the time of year, the strictness of zoning regulations and neighborhood associations, state environmental regulations, and so on. But rather than let these things hold you back, I say, “Jump In” or give us a call to discuss how the process can work for you. When you slide open the doors to your dream facility and see the happy heads of your horses looking over the stall doors, all the time and effort will vanish. At least that’s been my privileged experience over all these years.

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11.01.17

Dear John: Benefits of Beginning with a Site Plan

site plan

Q: Dear John,
We have a house on 3 acres of land with a 4-stall metal barn. It’s been years since horses have been on the property. The pasture and paddock are overgrown with trees and shrubs and are now essentially wooded areas. The fences are in disrepair. The area is hilly. We need to see if we can flatten an area to use as a riding ring. Drainage will be an issue. Basically, we need to figure out a way to rework what’s here to maximize what we can use. We understand that it will be a large undertaking and we want to properly plan to do it right and complete in several stages over a couple years.
Your website has been helpful and informative, but any additional information would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
Midwestern Equestrian

A: Dear Midwestern Equestrian,
Almost weekly, our office receives calls or emails from people who own a property and plan to put horses on it. Maybe there’s already an old structure there. Or perhaps they want to start from scratch. They ask for advice on where to begin.
Midwestern Equestrian, I suggest you start with a site plan. Even with an existing structure (your 4-stall barn), there are so many benefits to putting together a “roadmap” for future changes/improvements. And since you want to put four horses on three acres, efficient planning is critical. Consider that there are three major categories of costs when planning to bring horses onto your property: 1. Operational, 2. Environmental, and 3. Infrastructure. Proper planning will save you money in all three areas. Fewer roads, less fencing, better drainage all ensure that the whole farm, not just the horse barn but the entire collection of structures on the site, operates efficiently and safely.

Operational Considerations: First locate where you’ll put the horses – where is your turnout? Where will you store hay, equipment, or vehicles? Do you have access for manure pickup, large-truck deliveries, guests or visitors? Minimizing the number of steps necessary for your daily routine (turnout, stall mucking, etc.) will save labor time, which of course you know is money in the farm biz. Planning will also preserve space for paddocks.

Environmental Considerations: Figure out structure placement within your acreage. It’s important to properly orient any new buildings in the landscape. We design our barns to generate their own ventilation, placing them perpendicular to prevailing summer breezes. (One of many design considerations for maximizing light and ventilation, which is a subject I’ve written about often.) Additionally, placing structures where the land will drain easily makes good sense.

Infrastructure Considerations: Fewer roads to maintain means fewer dollars spent.

Creating a master plan does not mean that every part of it needs be built at once. The plan may end up taking years to implement, but as each new structure or paddock is added, it isn’t done in the usual haphazard way. It will save you from asking, “You know, I could use a tractor shed somewhere?” Even those with very limited budgets should consider getting the advice of an expert at the planning stage, given the importance of the optimum farm layout.

Hope this helps in your planning, and good luck with your farm!
John

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11.01.16

Back to School, Part II

blog-post_clemson-updateChecking back in to report what’s been happening at Clemson’s School of Architecture & Studio Appalachia.

 In case you missed it… Studio Appalachia is a collaborative, project-based graduate design studio between Clemson’s school of architecture and its department of landscape architecture. The Studio is directed by associate professors Dan Harding and Paul Russell. Studio Appalachia targets issues such as: accessibility to natural resources, sustainable building strategies, and approaches to long term visioning and planning.

I was asked to participate in this year’s studio because it involved horse facilities, specifically re-envisioning the Clemson University Equine Center (CUEC). With aging facilities that are well-used and well-loved, I knew it would be fascinating to see how these talented students created a fresh program for the facility. The teams of architecture and equine business students (a new twist for the studio) have spent the last several weeks immersed in detailing the site and facility requirements, learning about design issues unique to equines.

Teams consisting of three to four students conducted rigorous research, made several site visits, interviewed user groups, studied topography, considered land, sun, wind, circulation paths and traffic flow to create detailed and well considered Master Plan Studies and Field Reports.

Referencing the evolving formal and material contexts of Southern Appalachia, the four teams stated as goals to “improve circulation, establish organization, and enhance the (existing) ecology of the historic Clemson farm. To them, as one team eloquently stated, the CUEC is more than a farm; it is an institution that showcases the prestige of the university, and embodies the history, strength, and energy that the equine program was founded on.

The preliminary master plan schemes presented earlier in October were successful in developing goals and considerations for further study. The studio presents preliminary concept designs later this week and I’m looking forward to the big reveal.

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