10 TIPS FOR AN ECO-FRIENDLY BARN
The time is right to make your barn eco-friendly (ecologically and economically). On the heels of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, state governments and utilities are offering financial incentives to promote energy efficiency.
On February 17 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“Stimulus Bill”), prompting significant changes to energy efficiency tax credits available under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, including raising tax credits from 10% to 30% on products “placed in service” in 2009 (www.energystar.gov/taxcredit).
State governments and utilities are offering financial incentives to promote energy efficiency. For a complete state-by-state list of incentives, see the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org.
10 tips toward taking a greener path for your barn and budget:
1. Fans create continuous air movement to help dry floors, bedding, walls and ceilings. Fresher, cooler air eliminates hot, stagnant conditions that foster harmful bacteria, germs, and insects. In winter, fans equalize temperatures and circulate animal body heat. Models like the Agrifan, by Northwest Envirofan, are economical to operate (maximum 1 amp draw), and come with solid-state speed controls and a 3-year warranty.
2. Solar powered fans evacuate hot/cold air while requiring no electrical wiring (reducing fire hazards), reduce moisture/mold and, by preventing ice damming, can prolong the life of your barn roof. Solar Reflections, Inc. offers several models that qualify for the Stimulus Bill tax credit.
3. Energy-efficient lighting can brighten a barn and budget. EquiLumination specializes in green energy-efficient lighting alternatives to traditional fluorescent or metal halide lights. Using T-5/T-8 technology, lights run on only 234 watts, delivering 40%-60% more shadow- and glare-free light and lasting 50% longer. Lights can be retrofitted to existing fixtures, and models like the EquiWet 200 are safe for wash stalls and wet locations. In addition to qualifying for individual tax credits, reimbursements of up to 75% of your purchase may be available through new state energy plans or your local power company.
4. Tubular Daylighting Devices (TDDs) use reflective rooftop domes to capture sunlight and redirect it through reflective tubes into interior spaces. They can be installed without structural modifications while ceiling-level diffusers spread light indoors (a 10” tube lights a 13’x13’ space). Animals appear happier under TDD-driven natural light than fluorescent, and TDDs qualify under the Stimulus Bill, making owners happier, too.
5. Heating water is one of the most energy-consuming demands. A solar hot water system can reduce that 60% to 80%. Vanguard Energy Partners, LLC estimate that, over a 20-year period, replacing an electric system with a solar hot water system will avoid 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would contribute to global warming. In addition to tax credits, solar water systems are eligible under the IRS Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS) for accelerated depreciation over five years.
6. Glass wood isn’t an oxymoron. The fusion of these two natural materials is producing a composite that has builders abuzz. The benefits of glass wood (under product names like TimberSIL®) include greater structural stability (up to 50% stronger), resistance to warping, and a Class A fire retardant rating. This “Superwood” forms a barrier of amorphous glass around wood fibers, for permanent protection against rot and decay while keeping the look and feel of wood, and can be painted or stained. The “glass” is sodium silicate, essentially the amalgam of salt and sand, and has been safely used for fencing, stalls, and horse trailer interiors. TimberSIL® is certified for green-building programs, and determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a non-toxic barrier product (according to EPA, this is the first time in 20 years it has qualified a non-pesticide barrier product. See www.epa.gov/oppad001/timbersil_final_deter.pdf).
7. Pole barns offer reliable shelter without costly excavation, concrete foundations, or general site disruption of Mother Earth. Posts or poles inserted deep (up to 10’) into the ground can bear a lot of pressure and distribute it evenly around each pole, making construction stable and durable. A pole barn with pole foundation can be raised virtually anywhere, including places where traditional concrete foundations are not possible, leaving your best land for growing hay and/or preserving the natural environment. Pole barns are environmentally friendly because of minimal construction techniques, just don’t skimp on storm clips (a valuable investment if a storm or hurricane hits), and trusses should be of good quality, as these will bear most of the barn’s weight.
8. Consider a “green roof” covered with vegetation. Green grid roofing systems improve energy performance, reduce storm water runoff, and contribute to a healthier environment. Popular in Europe since the 1970s, green roofs reduce heating and cooling costs 25% to 50%. Plants transform heat and soil moisture into humidity, offering natural cooling and, in cooler months, provide insulation against heat loss. A number of cities and municipalities have implemented financial incentives, including tax incentives, density bonuses, and reduced storm water requirements. Check with your municipal planning department regarding green roof incentives in your area.
9. Use motion detectors outside instead of outdoor lighting. They save energy (especially if you replace incandescent bulbs with energy-saving options) while keeping the area around your barn well lit.
10. Start with a sustainable design plan. Blackburn Architects, P.C. (whose clients include Morven Stud in Virginia) are among the equestrian facility contractors specializing in building or renovating green barns (from 4 to 40 stalls) using passive design, solar and greywater systems, and sustainable building materials such as recycled-content, light-colored roofing with reflective finishes, low VOC stains/sealants, and high-efficiency translucent panels.