This Building Certainly isn’t “Going to the Dogs”

Thanks to an innovative architect and a committed owner, the Women’s Humane Society animal shelter in Bensalem, PA, near Philadelphia, has been reaping the benefits of a green building for six years.  According to John Foster, the Society’s executive director, the new building has sustained a reduction of 40 percent in energy usage per square foot compared to their old building.  More importantly, the animals have a better quality environment, leaving them noticeably healthier and happier.

When Susan Maxman & Partners (SMP) proposed a green building, the Society was enthusiastic since environmental concerns are a natural extension of their mission.  SMP, a national leader in establishing green building practices, was able to translate this eagerness into an award-winning building by using a team-oriented approach and providing sophisticated analyses to assist the owner’s decision-making process.  Early in the design stage, SMP began to work with landscape, engineering and energy consultants.  This “green team approach” achieved an integrated design and preserved the structure’s green aspects through the construction and building operation phases. The approach also resulted in an effective solution for a small, mixed-use building.

Modeling and commissioning are two unique steps that SMP undertook at the time, which now, six years later, many firms are still struggling to adopt.  Modeling was used to analyze features such as daylighting, R-values, and mechanical systems to obtain an estimate of operating cost reduction and the payback of any additional first costs.  This analysis allowed for a fruitful collaboration between SMP and the owner in making smart design choices.

Commissioning is a way of confirming that the building systems are installed and operated according to design intent.  The post-occupancy fine-tuning on the shelter continued for 1.5 years into its operation.  This component is a necessary step in implementing smart design choices to realize better building performance and value.

As evidenced by its awards, the animal shelter successfully demonstrates how environmental concerns can be integrated into overall design excellence.  According to Jeffrey C. Hayes, project architect at SMP, achieving the right process required “a client with the vision and foresight to look beyond project costs to the long-term benefits.  It’s a living testament to the fact that it can all work.”

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