Taking the First Steps

Determining How Big, How Many, How Much

The first critically important step in planning for a new, renovated, or expanded shelter is to determine exactly what your needs and budget are. How many animals will need to be handled now and for the next 20 years? How many runs, cages and holding areas are needed to handle those animals? How many support spaces (offices, adoption, interview, receiving, pet get-acquainted, clinic, classroom, garage, kitchen, storage etc.) are needed? How much will construction of the new building cost, and what size staff and operating budget will be needed?

Other questions that must be addressed are: What size and type site is needed? What new programs should be planned for? Should the kennels be completely indoor or indoor/outdoor? What building style is desirable? A major question that deserves careful consideration is: Should the building be the least expensive construction possible or a high-quality building designed to last and look good for 20, 30 or more years?

All of these questions - and over 150 more - must be analyzed and your particular answers determined before any plans are drawn. You can attempt to do this study on your own if you know all of the necessary questions that need to be answered.

However, the advantage of having an experienced planning and design firm perform the study is that such a firm has current, accurate knowledge about all the latest in animal shelter design, equipment, finishes, and construction costs, in order to assist you in making your selections.

Step 1 - Needs Assessment Study

Shelter Planners of America specializes in doing comprehensive studies for your organization. We will come to your location for a one to two day visit to develop a profile of your operations consisting of over 200 items of information, statistics, and your preferences. We will also evaluate potential or existing sites and make a presentation on important considerations for the facility. The completed study will be in a concise 30 to 40 page format. It will spell out exactly what rooms and spaces are needed in the new or renovated and expanded shelter, how many animals it will house and handle, operating features and the estimated construction cost, staffing level needed and operating budget.

Get started by completing a brief questionnaire by clicking here.

Selecting the Architect

There are three criteria you should apply to any firm you are considering hiring as Architect on your project:

  • 1. Is the firm well-versed in the operation and management of an animal shelter?

    This qualification requirement is important for the same reason that multi-disciplined experts in other fields are in great demand. The in-depth knowledge of animal shelters cannot be satisfied by the architect's simply interviewing or observing your staff for a few days. Consider when you first started working at a shelter; did you have enough understanding of its operation after several days indoctrination to be able to plan a new shelter? Surprisingly, this is about the level of understanding most architects have when they design your new building.

  • 2. Has the firm designed other similar animal shelters?

    Architects who have designed just a few are still learning by the mistakes they make. "Shelter Planners of America" can verify that after our team has worked on more than 750 projects over a 30 year period, it truly takes many projects to build the high level of design understanding needed to create an outstanding facility.

  • 3. Does the firm have a national reputation in design of animal shelters?

    It is tempting to think that a local architectural firm will be more responsive to your needs and do a better job. But it really doesn't matter where the "desk" on which the drawings are done is located. It is important that design drawings be done by the most skilled, experienced specialists available.

    The two stages when local contact is required are during the first needs assessment interviews and during the construction supervision stage. A qualified architectural specialist firm will travel to your location for the first meeting. Then day-to-day communication is handled through telephone, email, go-to-meeting, and skype (the same way most communications would be handled with a firm located across town). Finally, the construction management is handled by one of our Associate Architects, a local Architect, or Designer/Builder.

    These are three points to consider when you are selecting an architect. They will help assure that you have someone who truly understands how shelters function and who will know what is important to make the building work well.

Making Design Decisions

There are many decisions that must be made in the process of designing your new shelter. You will need a designer who can present the different choices to you, with the pros and cons of each choice and the cost of each option. Following are some of the key design elements that you will be addressing.

Site Selection

If you will be acquiring a new site for your shelter your choice will have a major impact on the success of the shelter. In addition to being sure you have enough acreage, proper zoning and availability of sewage and utilities, the actual location of the property is of utmost importance. We have found time and again that if the shelter is located on a main thoroughfare rather than a remote location or dead-end road, your visitor and adoption rates will double. When "Shelter Planners of America" does a Needs Assessment for your building, we will also evaluate potential sites as a part of the Study.