The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009

Cool Cities

Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond in Greener Facilities

by Judy Lindow

HSSV's new facility uses 'green' design to save money and enhance animal care. Photo: Humane Society of Silicon Valley
HSSV's new facility uses 'green' design to save money and enhance animal care. Photo: Humane Society of Silicon Valley

On March 28, the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) opened a new 'green' Animal Community Center in Milpitas. The $25 million, publicly funded project uses strategic siting, design, and technology to save energy, reduce capital costs, and create natural, healthy animal habitats. It is one of the first environmentally certified animal community centers in the United States.

HSSV expects to earn Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in recognition of the building's green features. LEED levels are determined by the number of credits assigned in each of five categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Saving Green by Going "Green"

The additional cost to implement sustainable building features was approximately $2.5 million, but those features are expected to save money over time. Water and energy represent nearly 48% of the Center's operating costs. The most capital-intensive elements of the facility — the solar array, turf, and cooling system — will eventually provide significant cost savings and allow the organization to dedicate more funds to animal care and community services.

Money isn't the only thing the new HSSV building saves. Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, primarily because of energy used to heat, cool, and operate lights and other electrical equipment. Solar panels are expected to provide 40% of HSSV's electricity, and the organization has established a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement to provide energy back to the grid. The Center exceeds the requirements of California's Title 24, a minimum building standard that surpasses the national standard for energy efficiency.

HSSV's building uses natural light to reduce electricity use and offer the benefits of sunlight to animals and their caregivers. The building was specially sited to capitalize on the natural light available, which now lights approximately 75% of the building through large windows and solar light pipes.

Additional energy efficiencies at HSSV include: occupancy sensors to manage lighting; special roofing materials, double-pane windows and R10 insulation; load sensors that provide energy use feedback for printers, computers, and desk lights; stained concrete flooring to help manage temperatures; Energy Star appliances; and an air handling system that recovers exhausted energy and uses it to heat or cool incoming fresh air.

Beyond Energy

Energy efficiency is not the only 'green' attribute. The building also saves water by using a special kennel cleaning system; low flow toilets, sinks and washing machines; artificial turf; native plants that thrive without excessive watering; and on-site landscape drainage that captures and cleanses rainwater before it enters water treatment, thus reducing the energy needed to clean water supplies.

Additional examples of the vision for HSSV include: saving older trees, now used to shade the dog park; using "recycled" (donated) office furniture; and reusing up to 90% of the concrete from the old building foundation. HSSV also seeks out suppliers who use environmentallyfriendly cleaners and who recycle; and greenrated products and services. Going paperless is an ongoing endeavor.

HSSV hopes to use their building to offer educational opportunities. They are working with Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E) Solar in Schools program on an on-site display that would show real-time power being generated by the solar array. They plan to partner with PG&E to leverage energy efficiency programs and intend to add the facility to the U.S. Government's Energy Star/PG&E Automated Benchmarking Service.

Judy Lindow is a Chapter member. Thanks to Laura Fulda (VP, Marketing & Communications, HSSV) and Susan Pommer (Product Management & Marketing Professional) for their time and expertise in preparing this article.