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Building an off the grid equine facility; Part 1

Amanda Edwards - Monday, February 01, 2016

I am going to open this blog by saying we are no experts on this subject. However, this is what we have experienced during our development of the new Equine Care Clinic Facility as owner/builders. This process has taken a serious amount of planning, time and effort and for those of you who are looking at developing a current or new horse property you need to be prepared for a A LOT of hard thinking. But in the end the process and product is very rewarding so at least you have something to look forward to.

Firstly we recommend that you start by organising a meeting at your local council. Speak to them about any questions you have about building any infrastructure, water management, amenities, effluent zones, environmental overlays and permits, you name it ask the question and follow up the answer. This is probably the most tedious part of the entire process, prepare for a serious amount of frustrating back and forth. But once you know your parameters you know what you are working with. One question we found useful to ask was “are there any other potential barriers or permits we may need to apply for?” Councils are used to working with builders who know the rules so they assume you do to. Even if you are working with a project manager or building company you still need to clearly articulate your end goal so they can help you get there.

Once you have spoken with your council it is time to decide what you need in terms of infrastructure. Do you need a 8 horse stable complex for your two retired oldies and a pleasure horse that you ride on a casual basis? Probably not.... It is wise to remember that the bigger you go the more maintenance you will have. So really have a think about what you need. Now is also a good time to consider your budget. Have a good look a your finances and stick to what you can afford. For those of you who have a tighter budget do not be dismayed, there are a number of options such as DIY, using subcontractors and self managing your build. Once you have decided your budget and the infrastructure that you want, shop around for some quotes from reputable builders. Ask them for references and have a look at the quality of their work before you commit to anything.

So now that you have a budget and a building in mind it is time to decide where you are going to put it. The things that we considered during this process were

  • Accessibility

  • land topography

  • Proximity to Utilities

  • Wind and light direction and passive solar benefits

  • Existing Infrastructure ( Fences, house, other sheds, driveways)

  • Tree Removal

  • Property flow

  • Fire Risk

  • Water flow during periods of rain

For example one of the buildings that we are building is a large two storey 15m X 20m shed that will house the Equine Care Clinic's stable and teaching facilities. We spent quite a bit of time giving this serious thought and consideration. Because there was no previous infrastructure on our block of land we had to put in driveways to all our building sites. The place we chose for the Shed then had to be cut and filled and have drainage put in. we had to design the interior configuration to best suit the wind direction and remove part of an existing fence to fit it all within the permitted zone. We wanted to work around existing trees and vegetation as possible. We also want any horses that need long term stabling to be able to visualise other horses at all times so a room with a view was important too!

Then we had to think of the workflow. Where was the compost pile going to be? Where was the tack room in relation to the wash bay and grooming area? Was there enough room next to the shed to put in the arena? How would the yards and paddocks flow from this? How would horses get in and out, how do we design for safety with horse movement? Where does water run off go? What's the best way to design for good infection control? A thousand questions to be answered before we even put a peg in the ground!

Being a visual person I find it difficult to work from plans and imagine the final outcome.

Things that helped were:

  • printed out pictures of the block that we could draw on.

  • Grid paper to plot potential angles.

  • Leggo to build models and 'walk' through the potential scenarios.

  • Standing on the block and actually walking it all through using cans of paint to mark out the proposed options

  • Looking at other people's set up and talking to them about what works and what doesn't.

I'm sure we will build it and there will still be things we didn't think of but after lots of discussion we're hoping we'll tick a lot of the boxes. If you can think of anything else, we'd love to hear from you. What worked for you? What do you wish you hadn't done?

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