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The Susquehanna SPCA Project Completion

Design Learned is Proud to Announce our Recently Completed Project!



Our most recent project to be completed is the Susquehanna SPCA located in Cooperstown, New York. We worked with the shelter from start to finish on the design and construction of their new facility. This began with programming the space needed in the new facility along with floor planning to accommodate their specific needs. Once we completed this step, we moved into the actual design of the facility’s interiors and engineered systems, including mechanical, plumbing, electrical, fire protection, and noise control engineering. During this stage of the process, we worked closely with the shelter to determine which finishes to select along with animal care equipment such as the animal caging and veterinary equipment. It was important for us to make sure we designed a state-of-the-art facility that can stand up to the everyday wear and tear that goes on in an animal shelter and that would meet the growing needs of the shelter. Learn more about our completed project below.

Floor Plan - Was the Shelter Designed with a Certain Purpose or Flow?


The floor plan was designed to maximize the efficiency of each shelter function (shelter, clinic, and intake/surrender). The flow of the facility is intentional and it goes from unknown to known (animal health and behavior) with the location of intake, then the clinic, then adoption.


HVAC System - What Sets it Apart?


This HVAC system is designed to mitigate disease, odor, and noise. We designed multiple smaller and independent zones with no communicating ductwork between the different zones. This allows for many separate and isolated areas that can remain flexible in their use for the shelter. For example, the dog isolation holding area is on a separate HVAC zone from the dog adoption holding and each dog adoption holding room is separate from each other as well. This allows the spaces to be isolatable if there is ever a disease problem that needs to be contained within the shelter. It also reduces the amount of noise that communicates throughout the building, which, in turn, reduces the stimulation that often makes dogs, in particular, noisier.


Lighting System - How is the Lighting System Helpful to the Shelter?


The lighting systems are unique to this building. We designed the lighting, specifically in the animal areas, in a way that has multiple lighting levels. For example, the dog adoption holding rooms have a resting low lighting level, a public hours and feeding level, and a very bright cleaning level that allows employees to make sure they are addressing the entire space.

Plumbing System - What Considerations were Taken into Account for the Drainage and Cleaning Systems?


The plumbing system for this building is very robust. Each dog holding room has a trench drain at the back of the kennels that is used to drain liquid waste, water, and any remaining cleaning product. Each dog holding room also has a flush fixture which is used to remove solid waste from the dog kennels. There is no bagging of dog waste in the dog holding areas. There are also floor drains throughout the building. As for cleaning systems, each dog holding room has a hose reel that is used by staff to wash down each individual dog kennel along with their cleaning agent.

Interior Finishes -Is There Anything Unique to This Project?


This project used very durable interior finishes in order to hold up to the abuses of an animal shelter’s daily use. The flooring used was fluid-applied epoxy flooring with two coats of a polyurethane topcoat. This is a seamless floor that can stand up to water, urine, and many types of cleaning agents. It is durable and waterproof, which is especially important in the dog areas that are washed down often.


We also used durable porcelain tiles and epoxy grout for the dog runs. The shelter preferred the look of this over cement block which is often used in animal care facilities. It was important to make sure that there were no gaps or pockets in which water could enter to the wall behind.


The doors used in the shelter were fiberglass and hollow metal. It was important to keep wood products out of the facility due to the water and humidity levels that are common in an animal shelter. These are very durable doors that also help with the noise control of the spaces. Sound gasketing and sweeps were also included to aid in the noise control.


Animal Care Equipment - Was it Designed with a Certain Purpose?


This particular project used Tristar dog enclosures elements and Midmark cat enclosures. In some cases, such as the dog kennels, a hybrid of the manufactured systems and contractor-built elements were used. The purpose of using these well-known vendors was to make sure the enclosures are durable and can stand the test of time.


The facility also has a full clinical area with a treatment space and surgery room. It was important to make these spaces as sterile and cleanable as possible and to make sure the veterinarians and veterinarian staff can effectively work in the space.

Medical Gas System (Piped System Within the Building) - Is This Different From the Previous Facility?


The medical gas system is piped, or “built-in”, to this building. The previous facility used portable oxygen to treat animals. The piped system is advantageous because it allows for increased oxygen storage and a central regulating area. We placed the oxygen drops strategically throughout the clinical area in locations that could require its use.

Are there Any Special Features in this Shelter?



This project used a well filtration system. The water testing found that the water was not adequately clean to use in its unaltered state within the facility. We, along with the contractor, plumber, architect, and structural engineer came up with a water filtration system to treat the water and make it safe and usable in the facility for cleaning and drinking.





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