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SPCA of Texas

Design Learned, Inc. worked with Dallas-based firm Hinojosa Architecture & Interiors on this innovative $8.5 million renovation project for the SPCA of Texas.

The designers took a former industrial complex and transformed it into a 39,000 square foot innovative and visually unique animal shelter. When it opened in January of 2012, it more than doubled the space of the previous facility. DLI engineers designed the intricate mechanical and plumbing features for the new shelter. Its fun, retail-style atmosphere is calculated to increase the adoption rate for this humane organization which has previously found homes for nearly 4,000 displaced animals each year.


Dallas, Texas

39,000 square feet
Services Provided
- Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing
- Fire Protection Engineering

2400 Lone Star Drive

Dallas, TX 75212

(214) 742-7722

Case Study:
SPCA of Texas Repurpose & Expand

the leading animal welfare organization in North Texas providing every animal with exceptional care

Standing the Test of Time

The SPCA of Texas is the leading animal welfare organization in North Texas. Since 1938, they aim to provide animals with exceptional care and a loving home. Joshua Cartwright has been with the SPCA of Texas for over a decade. He started as a Veterinary Technician and now serves as the Director of Facilities, overseeing the daily operations of the SPCA of Texas. Joshua and Victoria Cowper, the Vice President of Animal Welfare, served as critical points of contact for Design Learned during the SPCA of Texas' building expansion project in 2023.

Building Flexibility to Shift with Future Sheltering Standards

Flashback to 2010, Design Learned worked alongside the SPCA of Texas' architect to provide engineering services for their facility renovation project. In 2010, the Design Learned team, led by Scott Learned, had the foresight to design their animal care facility with flexibility in mind. In the context of interior planning and engineering for an animal shelter, flexibility involves interior planning and designs conducive to "zone" (defined areas within a building) changes related to a shift in function and species. Flexibility also allows organizations to respond to industry shifts and the evolution of sheltering standards. Joshua shares that "Design Learned really took care of the facility the first time. To this day, this facility is still one of the most state-of-the-art buildings. From animal wear and tear to cleaning chemicals, the building is withstanding the test of time."

The Decision to Expand

Joshua and the SPCA of Texas team needed to decide how they would make a more permanent adjustment for the additional animal intake needs and functions they now provide - including a forensics lab, increased animal capacity, and growing animal cruelty investigations work for the City of Dallas. They had to determine whether to renovate their intake building down the road or expand their existing shelter.


The Advantage of Animal Shelter Experts

More Space to Serve More Animals

Design Learned, along with other members of the design team, provided extensive consultation and design services to weigh the options for both locations. Design Learned provided a needs assessment, program, and floor planning for both locations. They also met with the Board to review the findings. Ultimately, the SPCA of Texas decided that creating an addition to their existing shelter would be the best option for them.

The Animal-First Building Solutions Your Shelter Needs

Let’s face it: The animal shelter industry is unique. Operating and maintaining facilities so that your animal shelter best serves animals is also complex. Organizations must partner with an engineering and design partner that understands animal-first building solutions.

“They know the ins and outs of animal shelters. Design Learned helped us consider our potential growth and expansion later on. For example, we were able to put in additional infrastructure for future renovation so that we do not have to tear up the building to put in any additional plumbing later. They were willing to take the extra steps in master planning to ensure we got everything we needed within the price range we could afford,” shares Joshua.

Specialized Animal Care Professionals On Your Team

Real-time Adjustments with Your Budget

In addition to animal shelter design and engineering expertise, Design Learned has a team of professionals working for our clients. From real-time adjustments to budget awareness to project management, the Design Learned team is available to take the stress out of building projects.

Joshua shares that “everything with DLI is easy! We have yet to run into any issue that they did not have a resolution. Design Learned is the most responsive group to work with, and I actually hand out Scott’s business card during tours. I feel like they are minutes away from the building, even though their main office is in Connecticut.”

Access Unprecedented Communication and Project Management

Through Design Learned’s complete interior animal care coordinated design service, clients receive unprecedented communication and management of interior planning, equipment and caging selection, and engineering for mechanical, plumbing, and electrical requirements. Again, the Design Learned team takes the complex and makes it effortless for clients.


From Conversations to Completed Construction

Animal shelters are as unique as the communities that they serve. Join us as we journey through the SPCA of Texas’ building project. This building journey included:

  • Conducting the in-depth feasibility study

  • Garnering Board buy-in on the building project

  • Creating the schematic design package

  • Coordinating the interior design and engineering


Determine if a Project is Feasible

When Joshua and the team reached out to Design Learned for this project, the first step was for Design Learned to perform an In-depth Feasibility Study. With this in mind, Scott traveled to Texas to conduct a building review site visit.

Review the Building During a Site Visit

Site visits are essential because they allow Scott and the Design Learned building experts to review the building and discuss specific functions (or "programmatic needs") the client hopes the building will serve. And because Design Learned designed the engineered systems for the current building, the site visit was a good chance to see what the client may have adjusted and to discuss new programmatic requirements that did not exist 10 years ago with the first project.

Receive an Opinion of Probable Cost

Throughout the feasibility study for a renovation or new construction project, the Design Learned experts will review programmatic space needs, the conditions of the existing building, consider floor planning options, review operational efficiencies or inefficiencies that may exist with various options, and include an Opinion of Probable Cost (OPC). The OPC is an invaluable resource for clients as it's often the first financial indicator of what the engineering and interior design aspects of a renovation or new construction may cost based on Design Learned’s vast project history.

Access Financial Information to Guide Decisions

The In-depth Feasibility Study for this project included the client's requested option of renovating the facility down the hill currently being used for intake services and the Design Learned recommendation of building an addition and repurposing a portion of their main facility. The SCPA of Texas used these insights to guide their decision-making process.

Garner Board Buy-in

We know that the decision-making process includes many layers and many voices. In addition to working with shelter staff, Design Learned is experienced in working with board members and any third-party design team members.

After Design Learned provided the In-depth Feasibility Study to the SCPA of Texas, Scott, and the team met with the senior staff, Board, and entire design team, including the architect, structural engineer, civil engineer, and contractors, to review their recommendations for the project's future direction.

Considering the Best Approach for Your Shelter

Design Learned shared that renovating the current intake facility still left the SPCA of Texas staff with some challenges. Even renovated, that facility limited the number of animals they could serve. Physically speaking, staff would need to journey up and down a hill to move from building to building, exhausting both their time and effort that could be better used caring for animals.

The facility itself also had some concerns with design inefficiencies due to existing conditions. During this comprehensive engagement, Design Learned provided floor plans and building options that allowed the entire team to discuss and consider the best approach for meeting the SPCA of Texas' needs.

Centralize Services to Maximize Building Efficiencies

Scott and the Design Learned team of experts successfully provided the SPCA of Texas with the option of building an addition and repurposing a portion of their main facility. The expansion allowed the shelter to centralize its services in a single building and use the existing facility more efficiently by reconfiguring key areas.

Joshua shares, "Design Learned also worked with our Board to help them understand costs, building new vs. renovating, and discussed possible building constraints. Scott was able to get buy-in within our organization and Board." The addition, accepted by the Board, met the shelter's needs and leveraged animal-first building solutions.

Creating and Coordinating the Interior Design

Finalize the Interior Design Details

The Schematic Design Package includes the planning and design elements that the construction manager requires to do an initial cost estimate for the project. The design package from Design Learned includes:

  • Mechanical Design Information

  • Electrical Design Information

  • Plumbing Design Information

  • Fire Protection Design Information

  • Caging and Enclosure Recommendations

  • Animal Care Equipment List

  • Interior Finish Recommendations

  • Floor Plan Development & Revision

  • Final Floor Plan


Receive a Cost Estimate for the Building Project

With those elements established, Design Learned created a pricing package for the construction manager, which was able to bring about a solid cost estimate for the project.


Ultimately, Get the Best Value for Your Dollar

Joshua shares that “the most impactful part of working with Design Learned is that they understand the process of how a shelter works, for both the clinic and staff. They understand the flow and how room layouts. By giving us multiple options, they were able to give us the highest quality materials within our budget.”

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