'Going green' breeds new facility management systems

Smart barn technology may forever change the way you communicate with horse owners, farm personnel
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Apr 01, 2010

A combination of forces are currently redefining the construction of buildings, homes, barns and businesses. The economy dictates that any and all methods be used to save costs both in the construction phase and, equally as important, in the long-term operation and maintenance of the structure itself.


A global view: This smart barn system is using satellite imagery to keep watch on this farm. Other video tools are helping veterinarians observe patients and make medical observations remotely. (Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth L. Marcella)
Reducing energy waste, eliminating unnecessary work and making facility management more efficient all favorably impact the bottom line. This type of proactive thinking is being adopted by operations trying to ride out the current economic storm, and it applies to equine barns and veterinary facilities as well.

The Tax Code of 2006-2013 provides tax credits and/or deductions for improvements in managing energy in commercial equine businesses (barns, breeding facilities and veterinary clinics). These credits can be as high as $1.80 per square foot of facility space. That's almost $260 for every 12-ft-by-12-ft stall or more than $1,100 for a 25-ft-by-25-ft treatment room. The numbers add up quickly.


Entering the digital age: Barns have never been technologically or environmentally efficient. But a new breed of technology aims to change that. Smart barns are attempting to integrate standard barn operations, the Internet and even medical records into one efficient package.
The current "green revolution" has increased awareness for better, more efficient use of electricity, water and heat. So much so, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification has become a sought-after distinction when developing a "green" property. This certification initiative was launched in 1993 by the National Resources Defense Council and addresses eight major areas of building design, construction and management that encompass elements of light pollution, water use reduction, cooling and heating efficiency, air-quality management and other aspects of environmentally friendly structure use. Substantial incentives and financial benefits are available for those who go green.

In a 2003 report to California's Sustainable Energy Task Force, Greg Kats and Associates evaluated the costs and financial benefits of green buildings. The firm stated that an initial upfront investment of 2 percent (in energy management-related design features) yielded 10 times the initial investment over the life cycle of the building. Many local governments have moved to incorporate LEED incentive programs into their building codes and regulations.

Smart design, new automation

Barns and equine veterinary facilities have never been seen as models of efficient energy use. These large facilities are often difficult to heat or to cool. Horses by their very nature, both in a barn or in an equine hospital, generate large amounts of waste, use large amounts of water for cleaning and drinking, have a substantial impact on air quality (ammonia content) and make daily operations less than efficient. Additionally, the vast amount of information (patient records, feeding and training programs, show and work schedules, farrier records, daily treatment plans and so forth) necessary when running these operations makes them ideal candidates to benefit from the new breed of interactive management systems currently available.

The ability to more efficiently manage information and to both save money and generate incentives by better energy management makes systems such as BarnLogix and BARN-E the first of a likely new wave of dynamic, point-of-use management tools. Management software for the veterinary clinic or equine facility is certainly not new. In fact, these programs can operate from a desktop or laptop computer and allow veterinarians and managers to track vaccinations, patient medical histories, farrier records and other horse-specific information and to generate invoices and perform most recording and accounting functions.

BarnLogix and BARN-E, however, have taken these functions to an entirely new level, and they represent the next generation in this area. BARN-E (Barn And Ranch Next Evolution) from Charter Solutions International and the BarnLogix automation system encompass all the standard accounting and information management systems we've grown to rely on, but they add in-barn, point-of-use interactive features, remote information exchange, language transcription, greater integration of radiographs, video and other multimedia information and extensive physical plant control that far exceeds what has been previously available.