New Humane Society of Huron Valley headquarters to provide green, "low-stress" housing for cats and dogs
When the Humane Society of Huron Valley was planning its long-sought new animal shelter, Executive Director Tanya Hilgendorf visited some 15 shelters around the country.
Those shelters were established as best-practice facilities, and Hilgendorf doesn’t mince words when comparing them to the nonprofit’s current home of more than five decades.
“They all have told me that just by having a warm and welcoming facility that people want to visit, they’ve doubled their adoptions, which is fantastic,” she said. “Here, this is a place for diehards.”
Crews are working to wrap up construction on an $8.6 million new shelter by Oct. 1, when Humane Society workers and animals are expected to move into a new 30,000-square-foot facility. The building, on Cherry Hill Road in Dixboro, is directly behind the current shelter, which will later be demolished to make way for more parking.
The new shelter is the culmination of many years of discussions by Humane Society staff and supporters, Hilgendorf said. The building will nearly triple the size of the existing shelter, which was built in 1951, and will provide enough capacity to handle 50 percent more animals.
The focus of the new building will be on animal welfare and creating “low-stress housing” for cats and dogs, Hilgendorf said.
The new building will focus on ways to keep cats and dogs healthier by minimizing stress and disease. Hilgendorf said about half the cats who come into the shelter get sick before their adoption, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatment costs to the organization’s $3.5 million annual budget.
In the new building, cats and dogs will be kept in separate quarters with piped-in classical music. It has more community rooms that attempt to replicate home environments for animals, and workers will get more advanced automatic cleaning systems, such as restaurant-grade dishwashers.
One of the facility’s more innovative features will be its geothermal exchange system to provide heating and cooling. The closed-loop system, coupled with energy-recovery units, will help provide 10 fresh-air exchanges per hour, further helping to mitigate risk for disease inside the shelter.
The building was designed by Ann Arbor-based A3C Collaborative Architecture, which specializes in sustainable building designs. Architects there also have incorporated sustainable materials and other design elements to help the organization minimize operating costs, said Jan Culbertson, senior principal.
“The site is a challenging site, and we were actually able to do some interesting things with the site itself, because we have all of the storm water is captured and we have infiltration basins, so that we’re actually recharging the aquifers,” Culbertson said.
“There’s a whole system of bioswales, so the water continues to get cleaned and purified as it goes through the storm system on the site.”
The Humane Society will lease the property for the new building, which sits within the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, from the University of Michigan for 65 years at $8,000 a year, Hilgendorf said. The organization is also required to create a $100,000 natural landscape buffer and replace all invasive plants with native species.
The organization remains about $1.2 million shy of its fund-raising goal to help pay off county-issued bonds to finance the project.
Hilgendorf is optimistic the new facility will help the Humane Society further drive up adoption rates for animals. She boasts of increasing the save rate from around 50 percent to 80 percent since arriving on the job four years ago.
New offices will also come as a relief for administrative workers crammed into cubicles in an aging auxiliary building.
“We were beating our heads up against the wall in this building,” Hilgendorf said. “It’s crumbling, it’s cramped, it’s sick, it’s stressful, it’s not designed for animal welfare today. It doesn’t help our work.”
Photos by Lon Horwedel, AnnArbor.com: Work on a new facility for the Humane Society of Huron Valley is wrapping up.