2017 Best Real Estate Projects: Placer County Animal Services Center

October 9, 2017

From the October 9, 2017 issue of
Sacramento Business Journal.

By Elaine Goodman

We’re introducing you to our Best Real Estate Projects of the Year. This is the top government project.

When it comes to animal shelters, Placer County appears to have struck gold.

Not only has its new animal center been certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green building Council, the facility has more than doubled pet adoptions.

The two-story 29,500-square-foot center in Auburn hardly looks like a shelter, with its sleek brick, wooden and concrete exterior. It replaces a much smaller, overcrowded center built in the 1970s.

The new shelter was designed to be inviting for both animal s and people. Its lobby is spacious, with large windows and animal art on the walls. It sports a cleverly named gift shop, Re:tails, which sells pet supplies. It also has a window showing a small nook where adoptable kittens climb on a play structure.

Watching the kittens play has softened the disposition of at least one grumpy customer, said Bill Lardner, an architect in Placer County’s capital improvements division. And when families arrive at the center, children immediately run to the display.

“That’s what we had hoped for,” Lardner said.

The cat window is one reason adoptions have soared since the new center opened last October. Dog adoptions increased 54 percent in the center’s first nine months of operations, while cat adoptions rose 122 percent.

Lardner said the project’s biggest hurdle was convincing county officials that the $22 million cost was appropriate.

“We were hoping we could do it for a lot less money, but that’s what shelter s cost,” he said.

Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes, whose district includes the shelter, said the board of supervisors looked at the cost of animal shelter s in other counties and decided it was in Placer’s best interest to build a facility that would last for 50 years or more.

“I consider the project to be an overwhelming success,” Holmes said. “The number of volunteers has doubled, adoptions are up, and there have been very few, if any, animals put down.”

In addition to the kennel areas, the shelter has a veterinarian clinic with a state-of-the-art surgery suite, a multipurpose room for events, an exercise pasture and a livestock barn equipped to house horses, donkeys, cows, sheep and goats. That area was used to house farm animals during the Oroville Dam emergency evacuations.

To help contain costs, funds were allocated where they counted the most while costs were trimmed in other areas, said John Zorich, project manager with Dreyfuss and Blackford Architecture. “We had to be aware of where we were spending the money,” he said.

For example, public areas have a speckled, polished concrete floor while plain concrete is used elsewhere. Solid fiberglass door frames were installed in rooms where dampness is an issue — to prevent moisture from causing the frame and adjacent wall to deteriorate — but other rooms have less-expensive hollow metal door frames.

Glazed tile was used in the dog kennels because it withstands power washing better than less-costly material, Zorich said. Because the feline housing areas aren’t hosed down, the tile isn’t needed there. But each “cat condo” has its own ventilation to help prevent the spread of disease.

The county selected Dreyfuss and Blackford for the project as part of a design-build team that also included general contractor Unger Construction Co. Although their proposal wasn’t the least expensive, it provided the best value, Lardner said\

The Dreyfuss and Blackford team proposed a two-story building in contrast to the single-story structures proposed by other teams. Lardner said the advantages of the two-story facility were quickly apparent.

Administrative offices were placed upstairs, giving staff more privacy but maintaining easy access to the facility downstairs. And the public doesn’t need to walk past the offices to get to the adoptable animal s.

“It allowed them to make a very efficient building,” Lardner said.

In designing the project, the team used building information modeling software Revit, as well as Fuzor, an application that allowed county staff to virtually walk through the building as it was being designed. Fuzor helped detect at least one potential design problem, Zorich said. Animal services dispatch staff needs to see from their windows both the entry gate and the animal intake area at the back of the building. But in an initial design, it was discovered that dispatchers would not have been able to see those areas while seated. As a result, the window design was modified.

“That would have been a pretty big change order,” Zorich said.

Computer modeling also was key to the design of shade canopies for outdoor animal exercise areas. By charting the path of the sun, designers determined that relatively small, fixed canopies would provide the right amounts of sun and shade. Large, retractable shades were not needed, saving money and reducing maintenance, Lardner said.

The windows in the building’s hallways allow visitors to see dogs without entering the kennel area, which cuts down on barking. In addition, the kennels don’t face each other, a situation that can promote a “barking competition” in which dogs wear themselves out and become more prone to disease, Lardner said.

The kennels have saloon-style doors that allow dogs to move easily between indoor and outdoor areas. The doors stay shut when a kennel is not in use, which helps conserve energy used for heating or air conditioning.

Describing the old shelter as a “downer” for visitors, Lardner said the new center has achieved its goal of attracting more interest from the community.

“It’s just a real pleasure for people to go there,” he said.


Location: 11232 B Ave., Auburn

Completed: October 2016

Developer: Placer County

Architect: Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture

General contractor: Unger Construction Co.

Structural engineer: Buehler & Buehler Structural Engineers Inc.

Civil engineer: Morton & Pitalo Inc.

Mechanical engineer: Airco Mechanical Inc.

Electrical engineer: Schetter Electric Inc.

Landscape architect: Wood Rodgers Inc.

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