What comes to mind when you think of an animal shelter? For me, I think about the time I adopted Furball from my local Humane Society about 8 years ago. The shelter was in an old building located in a slightly down-and-out area of town, beside a highway offramp. Walking in, I was immediately hit with the smell of antiseptic chemicals, but they failed to completely obliterate the underlying musty animal smell and wafts of urine. The cat section consisted of a small room bathed in the glow of fluorescent lighting and cages were stacked one atop the other. Most of the cats lay around lethargically only a few inches from their litter boxes. I wanted to adopt them all as the animals looked so miserable.
Fast forward to another time and place. What comes to mind when you think of a Gold LEED certified animal welfare agency? To be quite honest, when I first heard of this designation, nothing came to mind because I had never seen such a place before. Well, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) is set to completely revolutionize how people view animal shelters. As the first Gold LEED certified animal welfare agency in the United States, they’ve set the bar extraordinarily high. So, what does a Gold LEED shelter look like?
I was recently given a tour of the HSSV’s new facilities by Laura Fulda, VP Marketing & Communications for the HSSV. The new facilities are scheduled to open on March 28th and from what I saw even under construction, the new facilities are absolutely stunning. What I found to be most remarkable is the vision behind the new facilities. It’s not just a place that happens to have solar panels and eco-friendly building materials. Instead, the HSSV’s mission is to create a community destination that will address the root cause behind animal homelessness.
But first, let’s talk green. Just how green is this place? Well, the first thing a vistor will notice when they pull up is the parking spots shaded with solar panels. This is in addition to the photovoltaic arrays installed on the roof and over a portion of the dog park. It’s estimated that the arrays will provide approximately 40% of the facility’s energy requirements.
A view of the dog park under construction
Yes, you did read correctly. There is indeed a dog park on site. It’s part of the HSSV’s vision to create a destination where the community can stay connected with the Humane Society beyond simply adopting a pet. To quote Ms. Fulda, the HSSV wanted to create an “inviting, wonderful, family friendly place.”
In addition to the dog park, there’s also doggie daycare, boarding facilities, dog training, pet grooming, a pet-friendly cafe, a pet store, an education center, and a veterinary center offering low cost neutering and spaying. By encouraging the community to visit the HSSV on a regular basis for activities, educational programs and family fun, the HSSV hopes to reduce animal abandonment. The HSSV wants to provide a supportive environment to encourage pet owners to interact with their pets because one of the main reasons people give up their pets is because they fail to bond with them.
Now, back to the amazing green features of that make the HSSV deserving of their Gold LEED certification:
- Heat recovery technology on all heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems reduces the amount of energy utilized by the building’s climate control systems.
- A highly efficient cleansing system for kennel maintenance, which helps to reduce water consumption.
- Synthetic turf in the dog park eliminates the need to water the grass, which is especially poignant in drought-prone California.
- Low-flow showers, sinks, and urinals will reduce water usage by an estimated 45% as compared to similar sized facilities not taking these steps.
- Sensors throughout the building provide lighting only when someone is in the room.
- Server and client computers have been replaced with new units that are more energy efficient.
- Stained concrete floors reduce the amount of building, cooling and heating required. They also lower maintenance costs and eliminate the need for certain chemical cleaning and polishing agents.
- Installed a cool (reflective) roof. Cool roofs reduce the roof surface temperature dramatically, thereby reducing the heat transferred into the building resulting in reduced energy consumption (HVAC), reduced ‘heat island effect,’ and increased comfort for the building’s occupants.
- Implementing a green cleaning policy, recycling program, and policy that favors green vendors and shows preference to environmentally friendly products.
- Over 90% of the previous structure on the new site was reused to eliminate landfill.
In additon to these eco-friendly features, what really struck me during the hard hat tour was just how bright, spacious and airy the new facilities are. There was still painting and hammering going on, but I could easily envision what a great place it would be for an animal to stay until it was adopted. Ms. Fulda pointed out a very spacious area for dogs to socialize and play as well as the “rabitat”, which would be more reflective of a rabbit’s natural habitat.
Of course, I was especially interested in the kitty area and I was duly impressed. Gone were the wire cages and in their place, were beautiful bright cat condos. Each cat condo was the size of a 2-piece bathroom with large windows that would provide sunny spots for afternoon naps and great views of the outdoors for inquisitive felines. Each condo was designed to hold only one or two cats so there’s lots of room to stretch out. There’s also a cat community room to encourage interaction and socialization. Here’s a photo of the cat condos.
The Humane Society of Silicon Valley is taking a leadership role in transforming the way people view animal shelters and they hope to encourage other animal welfare agencies to follow suit. The vision for HSSV’s fabulous new facilities was conceived 10 years ago and they raised the needed funds mostly through individual donations. At first, I thought that the HSSV must have had a marquee corporate sponsor to make their vision a reality and I was surprised when Ms. Fulda told me that there were no large corporate sponsors. The decision to go green actually added $2.5 million dollars to the cost of the project, but the HSSV board decided this was the right thing to do.
They’re still short about $4 million dollars for their capital and operational fund. If you also believe in doing the right thing, perhaps you can help them out with a donation? To donate online, please visit the HSSV website at:
SEE THE NEW FACILITIES AT THE OPEN HOUSE ON MARCH 28TH IN MILPITAS
The Human Society of Silicon Valley is celebrating the opening of their new Animal Community Center with an open house on Saturday, March 28th from 10am to 6pm. If you’ll be in the area of Milpitas, CA, please drop by. There’ll be animal adoptions, kid’s educational programs, family activities and even an appearance from a local canine celebrity too! The new facilities are located at 901 Ames Avenue in Milpitas, CA. Hope to see you there!