Many people consider their furry four-legged friends to be a part of their family. But despite a general consensus that dogs and cats are wonderful additions, the canine and feline population still is higher than the number of humans willing to take them in, necessitating adoption and shelter facilities until the animals find a forever home.
When the City of Jacksonville, Fla., needed an expanded, updated animal facility, it called on Ebert Norman Brady Architects, Jacksonville Beach, Fla., to design it. The Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services Facility lies in a prominent intersection of Jacksonville’s two main interstates and gives area animals a comfortable, sustainable residence.
The Light Side
Jacksonville originally hoped to have the facility built earlier in the decade, but had to delay the process due to a series of setbacks. As such, when Ebert Norman Brady Architects adopted the project, Jacksonville’s main request was that the shelter provide as much capacity as possible while staying within budget.
To maximize capacity, Tom Norman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, principal of Ebert Norman Brady Architects, conceptualized a donut-shaped building. “The donut [shape] came about with the idea of providing free-standing feline wards in the courtyards so [the cats] can look out and have natural light, which is very important for their health, while having the canine wards [situated] to where they’d have natural light on both sides,” explains Norman. “It afforded us the opportunity to capture natural light and cross ventilation rather than having these really deep wards that would be unmanageable.” Norman dedicated three months to researching and examining other animal care facilities in order to be as well informed as possible going into the design.
The building has two public entrances—one leading to the adoption area and one where animals are relinquished—and one staff entrance. The main adoption entrance and staff entrance are on opposite sides of the building, with the kennel areas in between. The canines and felines had to be separated and facilities designed so the felines weren’t facing each other. The feline wards are four free-standing individual buildings in the courtyard while the canine areas are located along the building’s perimeter.
Animals, like humans, require clean living spaces and abundant natural light. “I think one of the more successful parts of the project is the adoption area,” says Norman. “That has a high, clerestory-type glass. I really wanted to treat it like a retail space with an atrium where people congregate. There’s a reason people go to those spaces and I really wanted to do that as well here. The animals also tend to show better under natural light as opposed to a harsh fluorescent light. It’s a win-win because the animals respond really well and it brightens the space.”
Because of the heat the Florida sun produces year-round, Norman extended the overhangs to diffuse the light and eliminate its harshness. The light also reflects off the white roof and a white exposed deck. “I would have liked to have introduced a little more natural light [in the kennels] but there’s a balance you have to strike,” says Norman. “Some dogs don’t respond well to storms and lightning so you have to be careful of that because it can really stress them out if you’re not careful.”
One overarching concern was fire safety. Several years prior to the construction, another Jacksonville animal shelter caught on fire and lost several animals. Therefore, the sprinkler system in this facility is prevalent and the structure primarily is built with non-combustible materials.
The high-performance mechanical systems are sophisticated to prevent or minimize the spread of airborne disease. “You’d typically find these types of systems in a medical environment,” explains Norman. “This was in the interest of the health of the animals.”
Metal panels achieved the cost savings and safety benefits the facility was seeking. “The first decision we made was to go with concrete masonry units and concrete block,” recalls Norman. From there, he evaluated what would look good with the masonry and also meet water protection requirements. “We looked at stucco but with the glass and other features that was not a direction we wanted to go. I started looking at metal panels and felt that it would give the building a more contemporary, clean look.”
Color options inherent with metal also appealed to Norman because of the shelter’s high-profile location. “I thought it would be interesting to use some bright colors on it to grab people’s attention,” he says. “Maybe it can entice people in. It became about using the panels and colors to make the outside of the building very interesting with the ultimate goal of getting people to see the building so they can go in and adopt an animal.”
Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services Facility earned LEED Gold certification from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council. The site is a 4 1/2-acre remediated brownfield; Jacksonville has several ash remediation sites it is trying to recapture. Smart building, material selection and the advanced mechanical systems help contribute to an estimated energy use of 40 percent less than a similar built-to-code building.
About 83 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills and nearly 28 percent of the materials—including structural steel, recycled-content drywall and concrete with fly ash—contain recycled content. Additionally, 43 percent of materials used were regionally sourced. The design also lent itself to maintain 49.7 percent of the open space on the site.
Coincidentally, as Norman and his team were suggesting the building pursue LEED certification, Jacksonville’s mayor rolled out an initiative to make all city projects sustainable based on the LEED system. “We started out with the goal of getting the building [LEED] Certified, but through our efforts were able to far exceed that,” says Norman. “They were really happy about that.”
Perhaps most rewarding, however, has been the dramatic increase in adoption rates. “That’s ultimately what this facility is about—the welfare of the animals,” he says. “Maybe in some small way the building has helped that.”