eco-friendly barn

Recycled or renewable materials for your barn

A hallmark of the green building movement is the use of recycled or renewable materials. Using bamboo, which can be grown without pesticides and fertilizers, is one option and FSC (Forest Steward Council) certified lumber, which is sustainably harvested, is another. Lamboo™ is the only company I know of that can manufacture an entire framing system of engineered bamboo, and we also sometimes use it for floors, finishes and details in the office and tack room.

Recycled composite wood is yet another option that can provide a viable alternative to natural wood or other fencing materials. We prefer to use recycled materials in our designs, including recycled rubber stall mats and aisle pavers when possible.

Lighting and ventilation

Natural lighting and ventilation are necessary in creating an optimal living environment for horses. Using passive design principles, proper airflow and lighting can be achieved without the need for energy-consuming electric lights and fans – which, when overburdened, are also a primary cause of barn fires. This can be achieved in part by venting air in low, with the use of Dutch doors on stall exteriors, and channeling it out high through vented eaves and/or skylights.

To keep both horses and humans healthy, a barn should act as a circulation machine, constantly replacing stale, damp air with fresh, clean outside air that is vented vertically – providing a chimney effect – and not horizontally. A steep roof slope, where hot air is conducted up and over as it is with an airplane wing (known as the Bernoulli principle), helps facilitate circulation. A poorly ventilated barn can contribute to high levels of dust and endotoxins in and around stalls, causing respiratory infections in your horse. Proper ventilation, however, isn’t just important for your horse’s health. A recent study by researchers at Tufts University found that 50% of New England stable workers suffered from respiratory illnesses, and concluded that poor air quality in horse barns was likely the culprit.

Using what nature has provided

Horse barns, sheds and outbuildings are great candidates for renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and solar hot water tanks, which can save money in the long run. With so many solar contractors and incentives programs available, solar is becoming an affordable option.

In many areas, both drought and storms are regular problems for horse farms. Harvesting rainwater through cisterns and other collection systems can help alleviate both problems. The extra water can be used for irrigating fields and pasture or for watering arenas or compost systems. Less water runoff will also help cut down on mud and muck.

John Blackburn and his team used green building principles to develop Blackburn Greenbarns™, a line of pre-designed horse barns that provide aesthetics and functionality while emphasizing the safety and health of horses, humans and the environment. They are naturally lit and ventilated, use low VOC paints and finishes, recycled materials and FSC-certified lumber. They also offer additional green add-ons, such as solar panels and hot water tanks, and rainwater collection systems ( Blackburn’s book, Healthy Stables by Design, can be ordered through or

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Award-winning architect John Blackburn is a world-renowned industry thought leader when it comes to creating safe and healthy spaces for equines. With over 40 years of experience in the practice of architecture and 30 years as an equestrian designer, John’s designs rely on natural light and ventilation to encourage equine health and safety as well as environmental conscientiousness. His equestrian projects range from polo barns and Thoroughbred-training facilities to therapeutic riding centers and private ranches. John authored the highly lauded book, Healthy Stables by Design. He is a passionate advocate for equine welfare and a member of many equine-focused organizations, including State Horse Councils in Maryland, New York and Virginia, and the Equine Land Conservation Resource, where he is a board member.