Must read: Healthy stables by design

The Sustainable Horse Insider

Architect John Blackburn talks about his work and his latest book “Healthy Stables by Design”.

We are happy mr Blackburn agreed to talk to us to provide some background information about his wonderful book.

John Blackburn has been designing sustainable stables way before the word ‘sustainability’ became in fashion.

“When I started designing for horses and started my practice 30 years ago (1983), I was focused on designing for the health and safety of horses. Our purpose was not sustainability.  In fact, no one was really discussing “sustainability” at that timJohn Blackburn Architecte.

My barns are designed to be a natural environment and as close to the same environment that a horse encounters in the wild.

I also wanted to create vertical ventilation naturally (less dependency on electric fans) and natural light (less dependency on electric lights) in the barn to rid the barn not only of heat (particularly in the summer months because horses have more difficulty with excessive heat than cold) but also rid the barn of harmful bacteria, dust, mold, etc for a healthier environment for the horse.

We used the Bernoulli Principle in the design of the shape and placement of the barn to create high and low pressure areas on each side of a steep roof to pull air up and out the barn roof at or near the ridge.  We used ridge skylights to add heat to the top of the barn using the Chimney Effect to aid natural ventilation.  The skylight added natural light to the interior of the barn and in all of our barns or arenas where we incorporate continuous ridge skylights, electric lights are not needed during the day.

When sustainability became an interest to the public I realized I was in fact already designing buildings (barns principally) that for all intent and purposes were sustainable.  So I started to promote that fact.”

equestrian site planning[/imageframe]

I prefer a style of architectural design that “fits” into its context through the use of local materials and the typical architectural forms and shape that have a visual connection to other buildings in the area.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in designing sustainable stables?

Getting people to actually install active systems in their barns.  Our barns typically incorporate passive design principles with the potential for the owner to add active systems.  Some do but many do not actually take that extra step.  Possibly because the pay back is not quite there yet.  But that will change in time.

beechwood farm

What kind of feedback have you had from equestrians on your book? Do you feel they are interested in sustainability?

I have had great feedback.  Sales have been good and I have received a number of requests to speak on equestrian design, designing for the health and safety of horses as well as the Greenbarn concept.  More and more equine owners are interested in the Greenbarn concept.  We have built about 5 thus far and have about 5 more in progress.

Furthermore, more and more of my clients started asking for sustainable barns and other farm structures.

Where do you feel the equestrian sector could make the biggest progress from an environmental point of view?

Pressure more states to provide tax rebates and other incentives for constructing sustainable structures and pressing federal and state governments to provide incentives to farm owners to put into practice responsible land management practices.

Here in The Netherlands, where The Sustainable Horse was founded, one of the first cradle to cradle office parks is being built. Would you consider it feasible to build an equestrian facility according to cradle to cradle principles?

I think it is worthy of discussion and analysis.  Not sure what a life cycle assessment of all the products involved in a horse property would entail.  Interesting concept and would welcome the challenge.

Most of the barns in the book are custom designed. Do you provide a solution for those who love to go green, but cannot afford to have their stables custom designed?

“Yes! In order to serve a wider segment of the equine community that couldn’t necessarily afford custom designed barns and to provide an alternative to the typical metal clad prefab barn, I developed a line of pre-designed barns that I called Blackburn Greenbarns.  I now market that concept to a segment of the market who want sustainability in their barn (and farm) design but also need to be more cost conscious because of limited budget.  My goal with those barns is to provide a range of predesigned barn types (four types) that can be constructed for a basic price or customized to fit a specify program need of the owner and shipped anywhere but using local materials when possible.  Though customizing is still possible to a limited degree at the same time we maintain low cost, they are nonetheless designed to be just as healthy and safe for the horse as a high end custom designed barn.”

Blackburn greenbarns

Customized Blackburn Greenbarn

More information: Blackburn Architects

Photo credits: Kenneth M Wyner Photographt Inc

Featured barn: Beechwood Stables. Observation lounge overlooking the indoor arena in association with Marcus Glaysteen and SLC Interiors.