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Animal Care Facility Design, Engineering & Planning FAQ

Clear answers to common questions about animal care facility design and our specific process

What do animal care facility engineering and planning firms do?

Animal care facility engineering firms develop the plans or blueprints for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and noise control systems for veterinary hospitals, animal shelters, boarding, daycare, and grooming facilities. We also provide interior planning services and interior design assistance to architects by making flooring, finishes, caging, and equipment recommendations. We provide these services for new construction, renovations, and remediations.

What makes Design Learned different from other engineering and planning firms?

We are the only engineering and planning firm that specializes specifically in the design of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems for animal care facilities. Other firms, including animal care specific architects, must employ engineers that do not necessarily have the same level of experience with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems of these specialized facilities.

Why should I choose Design Learned over another engineering firm?

We exclusively design for animal care facilities. We have experience working with and designing over 250 animal care facilities. No other firm has this level of seasoned experience with animal care facilities. Our knowledge and expertise allows us to understand the complexities and intricacies of animal care facilities.

Who all do I need to hire for designing and building my animal care facility or shelter?

All projects require a mechanical, plumbing, and electrical engineer as well as an architect. Other important team members include a civil engineer, structural engineer, landscape architect, and construction manager/general contractor. All team members bring their specific expertise and knowledge to the project and collaborate to create an amazing animal care facility.

Can Design Learned help me if I’m not located anywhere near Connecticut?

Yes! We work all over the United States as well as Canada. Distance is not an issue as we are accustomed to working remotely and have specific systems in place to ensure efficiency. We make various site visits throughout a project and are available at all times throughout the process.  We employ design professionals that are local to the project to gain knowledge of local governmental requirements, procedures, and location-specific insights that will streamline the project.

I spoke with an architect who said they were a design/build company. They can guarantee the price. Why should I go with you instead?

Generally, we do not recommend design/build. In the design/build scenario, you are signing a fixed fee contract for a building with perhaps a known size, but not much more. When you sign that contract, you have no idea about the quality of the HVAC systems, plumbing & cleaning systems, lighting, wall construction, flooring, equipment, or building longevity. The design/build contractor is now at liberty to put the least expensive components into the project, and any upgrades that you request will suddenly be “additional costs”. Design Learned has provided expert witness services for litigation on a number of remediation projects. Nearly every one was a design/build scenario.

If I hire an architect, do I need to hire you too?

Yes! We develop the plans or blueprints for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and noise control systems in building design and we assist the architect with the interior building design. When you hire an architect to design a building, that person then hires engineers for the mechanical, electrical, civil, and structural engineering. Collectively, they produce a set of drawings or blueprints usually referred to as the construction documents. A licensed mechanical and electrical engineer will be required on your project. We specialize in mechanical, electrical, plumbing and noise control engineering exclusively for veterinary hospitals, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and various boarding facilities across the country.

How do I begin to make caging and equipment selections for my animal care facility?

We assist you by providing caging and equipment recommendations. We have relationships with an extensive list of important animal care caging and equipment vendors. We’ll help you determine what equipment and caging is required for your project and obtain quotes to review with you to aid in the selection process.

Why should I hire you instead of a local engineer who has completed two or three animal care facilities?

A designer or engineer with a few hospitals or shelters in her or his resume does not constitute expertise. It is a full time job for our staff just to keep up with the industry, trends, and products. We lecture for major, national trade shows at veterinary, kennel, and shelter venues on the proper design of systems. We are constantly revising and updating our own standards to meet the changing needs of the animal care community. It is simply impossible for anyone who does not provide this service full time to be an expert in the field. We have developed standards in the industry that are simply unknown to local engineers, architects, and contractors. They lack the experience to know what to do, why to do it, and what the best value and least cost is relative to the best performance and lowest operating costs.

My contractor said that an engineer specializing in animal care isn’t necessary and knows someone that can do the engineering for very little. Why is this not the best route?

You will most likely not receive truly informed and accurate advice on the proper systems and the pros and cons of different approaches. We will provide detailed drawings that avoid problems during construction. We will not recommend the cheapest and poorest quality equipment that are related to systems which are often improperly selected by engineers not specializing in animal care facilities. We have spent over 20 years developing industry standards to create the best HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems for these kinds of facilities.

What is the overall design process like for an animal care facility?

The design process is broken down into 5 primary phases.

Phase 1: Animal Facility & Engineering Planning

We develop the unique depth and scope of your project based on the key requirements related to mechanical, plumbing, electric, lighting, and more that provide insight into the most ideal form of your facility.

We conduct programming and an initial design narrative.

Phase 2: Schematic Design

We will solidify the spacial requirements and floor plan of your facility with the architect.

During this phase, we employ a local architect, civil engineer, structural engineer, and construction manager to establish the building interior and shell as well as the site plan.

You will need to complete any planning and zoning hearing requirements related to your facility’s construction.

Phase 3: Design Development

Using a room-by-room approach, we ensure that the various floor planning and engineering requirements are optimal for each specific room to allow for the most precise use of resource & energy consumption while also reducing animal stress, mitigating odor & disease, and providing the best environment possible for every part of your facility.

At this point, we start helping you make the best decisions when it comes to selecting equipment, caging, flooring, and finishing.

We will finalize the necessary design requirements of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

Phase 4: Construction Document Development

Using the plans and projected requirements from the previous phases, we will create an official set of blueprints and specifications that are suitable for building permits and outline the utility requirements and actual construction.

The construction manager will use these blueprints to solicit bids from subcontractors to find the best construction team possible.

Phase 5: Construction & Administration

Your project is now under construction and is managed by the construction manager.

We follow the project closely throughout construction and review contractor questions and submittals as well as help troubleshoot on-site issues. We’ll provide administrative guidance until completion.

Your new animal care facility is then completed and ready for use!

Can Design Learned help me if I already have construction documents/blueprints?

Yes! We are often hired to conduct third party reviews of engineering and interior plans and provide recommendations or raise any concerns that arise in the review of those plans.

Can I hire you as a consultant if I already have an engineer for the project?

Yes! We can be as involved as you would like and can offer general recommendations and drawing reviews throughout the design. We are happy to assist your local engineer in creating the best animal care facility possible.

Does the size of my project matter?

No! We have designed facilities as small as 800 square feet and as large as 70,000 square feet. We approach all projects with care and understand the individuality of each project.

What is your design philosophy?

Animal care facilities are unique in that they must work for humans and animals. There are more systems to design in these facilities and they are, by necessity, specified in greater depth than is required for other types of buildings.  Animal care is unique, bearing little similarity to human medical or other types of facilities. The combination of animal density, multiple disease paths, humidity control, odor & cleaning considerations, and noise control within relatively small spaces makes animal care facilities among the most difficult and deeply coordinated types of building engineering. Many of these requirements are not intuitive. Our designs focus on providing safe and comfortable spaces for animals while also increasing operational efficiency and providing high quality, safe, and confidential environments for the public.

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