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Susquehanna SPCA

This amazing 10,500 square foot SPCA was completed in 2021 as the replacement for the existing shelter located roughly a mile away.

The engineered systems include multiple smaller HVAC zones with dehumidification and fresh air to aid in the reduction of disease, odor, and noise throughout the building. Durable finishes were selected that could stand up to the everyday wear and tear of an animal shelter. The project used a well for water and a septic system. Due to the poor quality of the well water on site, a water treatment system was designed.

5082-5088 NY 28

Cooperstown, NY 13326

(607) 547-8111


Cooperstown, NY

10,500 square feet
Services Provided
- Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing 
- Fire Protection Engineering

- Noise Control Engineering
- Odor/Disease Control Engineering
- Programming
- Floor Planning
- Equipment and Caging Selections
- Flooring/Finish Recommendations

Case Study:
Susquehanna SPCA’s New Building

An animal shelter helping its community and homeless animals in New York

Guaranteeing A Loving Home

Stacie Haynes is the Executive Director at Susquehanna SPCA and has led the organization since 2015. She has a motivation for working with and helping others. And she is passionate about making a difference while being involved in her location community. Stacie sits on the leadership team and works alongside the SPCA’s Board and Staff to deliver on the shelter’s mission. As the Executive Director, she served as Design Learned’s primary point of contact during their building journey. She is the President of the New York State Animal Protection Federation.

Overcoming Operational Challenges through Building Design & Engineering

Stacie and the Susquehanna SPCA team were ready to next-level their operations, improve building efficiency, and maximize their services offering through better facility design and floor planning. The Susquehanna SPCA team needed a new facility designed with modern shelter guidelines. In 2018, they launched their “Shelter Us” Campaign to fundraise for the new building. With funding ready, the Susquehanna SPCA was prepared to start its building journey.

A Design Team For Every Building Project

Every building project has a design team including civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, architects, interior designers, structural engineers, and landscape architects. Depending on project needs, the design team may be structured or composed slightly differently.

Option 1: Design Learned Identifies & Managers Your Design Team

Many clients hire Design Learned to be the prime designer. With this approach, Design Learned provides project management and selects sub-consultants for the design team. Design Learned also provides mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection (MEP/FP), and noise control engineering and interior planning services.

Option 2: Design Learned Professionals Join Your Existing Design Team

Other clients have our animal care building experts join their existing design team. For this project with the Susquehanna SPCA, the Design Learned experts joined the existing team that included a contractor and architect. The Design Learned professionals enhanced the design team by providing MEP/FP engineering, noise control engineering, and interior planning expertise. Susquehanna SPCA leveraged Design Learned’s animal shelter expertise as they faced real-world decisions.

Design Learned Services for this Susquehanna Project

  • Answered Board questions regarding project budget and design

  • Created a program and floor plan

  • Provided finish recommendations

  • Provided animal caging and veterinary equipment recommendations

  • Worked alongside the architect to design a building fit for their needs

  • Provided MEP/FP engineering and noise control engineering

  • Provided full interior design plans


Design Professionals Who Use Modern Shelter Guidelines

Unlock the Design Learned Advantage

Design Learned served a critical role in the building journey. The Design Learned building experts worked with the design team to deliver a state-of-the-art animal shelter. The architect played a vital role in designing the shell of the building along with the adjacent shelter thrift store. Together, the design team developed a facility that leverages modern sheltering guidelines in all spaces.

Our animal shelter experts provided invaluable experience throughout the design and construction of the facility. Key animal-first solution for this project include:

  • Knowledge of caging & equipment solutions specific to the animal care industry

  • Insights into the design of the animal holding areas and clinical space

  • Expertise to design for unique requests such as surgical suites and catios

  • Methods for mitigating odor & disease using mechanical & plumbing systems


A Better Experience

There is a real advantage to working with animal care building experts. The Design Learned team of professionals delivers facilities that maximize animal capacity and staff efficiencies within the space constraints. Design Learned keeps animal and staff health & wellness in mind throughout the design process.

Access Our Specialized Animal Shelter Expertise

Our animal shelter experts engineer the building to effectively reduce odor, disease, and noise – through mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems. Design Learned provides specialized expertise during the building journey.

  • Budgeting based on building needs & requirements

  • Caging and equipment recommendations

  • Finish recommendations for walls and flooring

  • Interior planning information for animal care

Alleviating the Stress of the Building Journey

Further, Design Learned alleviates the stress of the building journey for you through our in-house project management professional services. The Design Learned advantage improves your building and your experience along the building journey.

It’s Time to Design

Let’s dive into the Susquehanna SPCA building journey. From initial consultation to a conceptual design proposal to construction documents and construction administration, the Design Learned team of experts supported Stacie and the Susquehanna SPCA team through the entire project!

Animal Shelter Experts the Answer Your Questions

Stacie and the contractor on the Susquehanna SPCA’s design team contacted the Design Learned experts to provide an initial consultation for the building project. During the consultation with Stacie & the design team, Scott & the Design Learned experts answered questions, provided education on the animal shelter design guidelines, and consulted no critical engineering and interior design considerations.

From Conversation to Conceptual Design

After the initial consultation, Stacie and the design team were ready to move forward with the conceptual design proposal for the project. The Design Learned team provided a Conceptual Design Proposal including:

  • Building Program

  • Floor Plan

  • Engineering Narratives

  • Opinion of Cost


Building Insights for Design Making

The proposal included essential information and guidance for the Susquehanna SPCA’s Board and Leadership teams. After completing conceptual (or schematic) design, the stakeholders provided the Design Learned experts with feedback and adjustments to the conceptual design. As a side note, communication among all design team members is critical during this phase. This phase of a building journey tends to be quite iterative! For instance, the Design Learned engineers and interior designers communicated with the architect and other design team members to ensure consistency when making the requested concept updates.

The Documents Necessary for Construction

Once the Susquehanna SPCA team approved the Conceptual Design, it was time for our building experts to create the relevant Construction Documents. This phase is the most extensive design phase and serves as a continuation of conceptual design. The Construction Documents Phase involves the creation of the actual building blueprints and specifications for the building. The Construction Documents are vital to the building process and are required by the Building Department to obtain a building permit. The Construction Manager/General Contractor uses the documents as they price the project and reference them during construction.

The Susquehanna SPCA’s Construction Documents included two unique aspects: Built-In Kennel Systems and a Clinical Suite.

  • The Susquehanna SPCA team requested built-in dog kennel enclosures for their new facility. The Design Learned professionals created the custom designs with the architect and contractor. Our animal shelter experts coordinated with caging vendors to accommodate their request in the kennel design.

  • Another important request from the Susquehanna SPCA team included a state-of-the-art shelter medicine suite. Our engineers designed a surgery space, special procedures room, treatment space, and a room ready for future radiology needs and equipment. One unique feature is that the feline and canine recovery rooms include full windows into the surgery suite. The windows enable staff to view animals in the recovery area when in the treatment and surgery spaces.


Let the Construction (and Construction Administration) Begin

One invaluable services Design Learned offers is Construction Administration. Construction Administration is a service that runs in tandem with the building’s physical construction. With this service, the design Learned building experts work with the contractor overseeing the shelter’s construction. The Construction Administration service includes:

  • Answering contractor questions about the design and drawings

  • Reviewing all equipment for the project through submittals

  • Helping resolve ad hoc questions or challenges in the field

  • Providing site visits at critical milestones

  • Reviewing equipment installations

  • Reviewing quality of construction as it relates to the Construction Documents

Stacie and the Susquehanna SPCA team also leveraged on-call support from the Design Learned engineers throughout construction.

The construction stage of the building journey requires quick thinking and thoughtful solutions to construction conditions. For example, toward the end of the construction project, the design team received water quality findings that required attention. The Design Learned engineers worked with the design team to engineer a water treatment system that resolved the challenge. The entire design team worked together promptly while adhering to budget constraints.


A Finished Building that Supports Long-Term Shelter Success

With construction concluded, the Susquehanna SPCA operates in the new building. Here are a few highlights of the facility, approximately 10,500 square feet in size:

  • Boasts of a shelter medicine suite

  • Includes spacious dog and cat adoption housing

  • Includes isolation housing

  • Offers intake and surrender services

  • Allows for efficiency throughout the building

  • Features a walk-up mezzanine to house the mechanical units, much of the ductwork, and the water treatment system for the building

Post-construction, Stacie and the Susquehanna SPCA team continue to have access to the Design Learned professionals as they navigate the continued success of the shelter. From assisting in the design and safety requirements for the radiology room to providing support materials for building grant applications, our experts continue to support Susquehanna SPCA!

Design Learned is the premier building partner, and our building experts offer animal-first building solutions to animal shelter professionals as they navigate their building journey.

Client Review

“I found the design and construction process to be rewarding and fun. It was a great opportunity to learn more about standards and best practices in our industry. We now use our facility to educate and inform others about how with a specially design facility, we can help more animals and provide them with a better quality of life in our care” – Stacie Haynes

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