Animal shelters had headstart toward healthier buildings

Rick BaconHow we occupy and move through spaces have been altered by our need to adapt our lives to controlling the spread of COVID-19. It’s now routine to drop-off and pick-up your pooch through the window of your car while waiting in the veterinary hospital’s parking lot. We suspect that many shelters have already adapted operations by, for example, moving some adoption processes on-line, limiting how many potential adopters can be in the lobby at one time, or making your people-traffic go in one direction with separate entrance and exit doors and floor-mapping flow through animal housing.

There are several design techniques that were already prevalent in the animal sheltering world that others now realize will help make all buildings safer to use and occupy during our time of COVID-19 and afterward. Those in the animal care community already know that air quality, flow and filtration help control the spread of airborne pathogens. Compartmentalizing animal housing into smaller spaces makes it easier to contain a disease outbreak and sanitize a space more rapidly. Automatic door openers make it easier to bring crated and non-crated animals through the doorway and provide a touchless entry. 

Paying closer attention to and dedicating scarce funds to your facility’s mechanical systems will bring some of the greatest short and long-term benefits toward creating a permanently healthier space. Some things can be done immediately, such as

  • Increase ventilation rates and air changes in other spaces, not just in animal housing and surgical spaces.
  • Align HVAC filter selection, cleaning schedule and replacement cycles with ASHRAE recommendations. Maintain what you have to improve functionality and longevity.
  • Improve HVAC system filtration by installing HEPA or MERV 16 filters at recirculated air ducts. Seal the edges of filters to limit bypass.
  • Some studies suggest that the virus may be spread via the plume created when a toilet is flushed. Commission each restroom for negative air pressure. Place signs in restrooms to close the toilet lid before flushing. If there are no toilet lids, install them.

Here are more design tips to make your facilities safer during the coronavirus pandemic and keep it a healthier environment. Download the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) free resource called the Re-occupancy Assessment Tool. The considerations are organized by CDC priority. Many can be implemented immediately. Access the document here:

Rick Bacon, FAIA, Bacon Group, Inc.
[email protected], 727.725.0111

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