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  • Writer's pictureHannah Skidmore, MBA

How to Increase Building Flexibility Within an Animal Shelter

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Evolving Needs Shelters in the Animal Care Industry


Flexibility is the key to increasing an animal shelter’s longevity. The Design Learned building experts leverage two critical areas of flexibility with animal shelter projects: maximizing layout and engineering multi-use spaces. The future of the animal care industry continues to evolve, and the demands on animal shelters continue to change with shifting demographics. With these changes in mind, flexibility in an animal shelter’s engineering and layout is necessary to maintain an effective and efficient animal care operation.


Animal shelters often struggle with operational issues due to the engineering and layout of their buildings. The Design Learned building experts have worked with countless animal shelters to renovate dysfunctional buildings, design expansions, and create new structures with animal-first engineering in mind.


A building’s layout and engineering are driving factors when considering how flexible management can be when handling challenges in real-time.

  • Has your animal shelter struggled with managing an increase in kittens during kitten season?

  • Has your animal shelter struggled with finding enough isolated spaces for an influx of sick animals during certain times of the year?

  • Has your animal shelter ever been challenged to find safe spaces to house a large group of dogs from a recent seizure?

How to Increase Building Flexibility


Here are three ways that the Design Learned building experts increase flexibility within an animal shelter, leveraging engineering and design necessities.


Use more smaller animal holding rooms


Does your animal shelter struggle with too many animals and not enough space? It may seem counterintuitive initially, but animal shelters can increase animal capacity by leveraging smaller holding rooms. Floor planning contributes significantly to the flexibility of an animal shelter. The Design Learned building experts often see animal shelters with large open areas for animal holding. Often the large holding area is for dogs, with 20-40 animals in one room at a time. Many of the animal shelter Executive Directors and Operations Managers do not realize that a large space reduces the capability for flexibility for ad-hoc situations. The Design Learned building experts recommend a series of smaller rooms that can be used for a variety of reasons throughout the life of the building - from isolation rooms, to quarantine rooms, to adoption hours, to intake holding areas, etc. A good rule of thumb is to have 8-12 dogs or 10-12 cats per holding room.


Create proper HVAC zoning


Does your animal shelter struggle with cycles of illnesses or disease outbreaks on a regular basis? The need for animal health is critical to maintaining the flexibility that floor planning offers. Often clients do not realize that engineered mechanical systems, such as HVAC systems, can help prevent illness outbreaks within animal shelters. Many clients that come to Design Learned for animal-first building solutions work for an animal shelter with only one or two HVAC units for the entire facility - woefully inadequate to mitigate illness and control a disease outbreak. The Design Learned building experts map out zones throughout a building to ensure that each zone is equipped with its own system, ventilation, and ductwork. Again, having multiple zones throughout the animal shelter with independent and separated systems minimizes the risk of disease and illness precipitating throughout the building. These zones allow continued flexibility based on the real-time needs of an animal shelter.


Eliminate limits of the building due to noise through noise control


Noise control is an issue the Design Learned building experts often see in animal shelters. The noise issue reduces the flexibility within the building as a whole. For example, there may be an empty room. In theory, the empty room could be used for an overflow of cats, vendor meeting, or staff meeting, but because the loud dog-holding spaces are near, the area sits empty. Clients often tell our building experts that the loudness of their animals negatively impacts their capabilities, even when they may have capacity. Ultimately, loud animal shelters reduce flexibility. The use and importance of noise control techniques to address noise transmission and noise reverberation is essential to flexibility throughout a building. The Design Learned building experts construct rooms with noise control in mind to provide greater flexibility within an animal shelter.


Designing for the Future of Animal Care


Each of these building design aspects can help to increase an animal shelter’s flexibility to address the current and future needs of the community. Because the Design Learned building experts design animal shelters meant to last decades, the goal is to plan and prepare for as many possible changes to our client’s operations, demographics, and services as possible while addressing your current needs.


If you are interested in learning more about how we can assist you in creating a flexible shelter, please schedule a free initial consultation with our team. Call us at 860-889-7078 or schedule a consultation online to discuss further.







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