Humane Society facility embraces solar, green technologies

Humane Society facility embraces solar, green technologies

MILPITAS, CALIF. — The Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) animal community center is now home to the largest solar installation here, which was completed this July, and a variety of other energy and water conserving technologies and products. Once the building receives LEED Gold certification, it will be one of the first animal community center in the U.S. to obtain this status.

Owned and operated by Tioga Energy, San Mateo, Calif., a provider of renewable energy services to commercial, government and non-profit institutions, the 274 kW solar parking shade structure and rooftop systems are composed of 1,335 photovoltaic modules that will provide an estimated 33% of all energy used at the 48,000-sq.ft. animal community center. The photovoltaic system is expected to save up to $50,000 in energy costs in 2011.

“While designing our new animal community center, we worked closely with Tioga to reduce our energy costs while developing a better environment for the animals and the visiting public,” said Christine Benninger, HSSV president. “Today, our animal community center not only promotes animals, but also showcases the ease and beauty of energy efficiency, water savings, and building in harmony with nature.”

Through a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Tioga Energy, HSSV was able to install the solar project without expending any upfront capital. Tioga Energy owns and operates renewable energy systems, providing organizations a hedge against energy price volatility and accelerating their access to clean energy without any capital outlay.

“Humane Society Silicon Valley's Animal Community Center represents a progressive shift in animal care, and a smart approach to solar was paramount to the project's success,” said Paul Detering, chief executive officer, Tioga Energy. “The facility is an inspiring model of humane care, community involvement, and green building design for shelters and other non-profits nationwide.”

The PV system is made up of two 75kW inverters and one 100kW inverter by Satcon and 1,335 PV panels by Kyocera. The facility also has a solar domestic hot water system, separate from the photovoltaic system, made up of State Waterheaters along with a ProgressiveTube system by TCT Solar, Jacksonville, Fla.

Installing the PV system did not come without challenges since it was installed after the animal community center was completed in 2009.

“We located all the roof panels and the freestanding parking structure supports,” said George Miers, principal architect of Swatt/Miers Architects, Emeryville, Calif., who worked on design aspects of the building, including the mechanical systems. “This was a particularly difficult problem in that the project was not originally designed for photovoltaics, so the roof had to be carefully retrofitted and panel location was a complicated redesign effort given all the other components on the roof such as HVAC units and the hot water solar system.”

Efficient mechanical systems

Besides the PV system and solar hot water system, the animal community center incorporates an advanced heat recovery system, three types of air handling equipment, and a reflective “cool” roof to minimize solar heating of the building in the winter and reduce air-conditioning costs in the summer.

“What needs to be understood is that an animal care facility is much akin to a hospital in that due to the concerns of disease transfer, all air from animal habitat areas including the clinic must be 100% exhausted and not recirculated,” explained Miers. “Hence, there is a need for 100% fresh air that must be heated and cooled. Thus, by its programmatic nature, much of the building is generically inefficient. Typically, an office building has approximately 70% recycled air with 30% fresh air. While it is often cited that this is why such environments are not healthy for people, they do require less air.”

The animal community center is utilizing three types of air handling, provided by high-efficiency roof top units. The offices, classrooms and public areas utilize traditional office building HVAC units with reheat coils and economizers. The “healthy” animals (adoption and holding) area has 100% outside air with heat wheels, and the “sick” animals area and the clinic have 100% outside air without a heat wheel.

According to Miers, a heat wheel is not used in the sick animal area because heat wheels have a 5% disease transfer potential.

“Developing a highly efficient HVAC system to meet LEED standards and yet still providing for the required 100% outside air — and doing so on a very limited budget — was a very difficult task that took the combined efforts of the entire design/contractor/owner team,” said Miers.

There were also challenges with the plumbing because of the project’s requirements.

“Plumbing was a challenge because there are so many drains and special plumbing requirements throughout the facility including the cleaning systems, medical fixtures, grooming fixtures and even a catering kitchen for special events,” said Miers.

A unique aspect of this animal care facility is the water-efficient cleaning system.

According to Miers, the facility’s cleaning system by Spray Masters Technology is a big component of the facility’s water conservation program, and it is approximately 80% efficient when compared to a traditional water hose cleaning system.

The majority of plumbing products, including all the floor and roof drains, are Zurn products. Other water-efficient features of the animal care center are low-flow sinks, showers and toilets, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance landscaping, and artificial turf that is being used instead of natural grass in the dog parks.

Even though animal care centers are somewhat comparable to hospitals, they are judged differently when using the U.S.GBC LEED rating system.

“Hospitals have their own version of LEED that allows them to be judged within the context of hospital design criteria while animal shelters do not have a special category and, hence, must satisfy LEED and other energy requirements on the same level as traditional office buildings, said Miers. “It required many innovative design and engineering approaches to accomplish this [LEED Gold]. This is truly a unique facility and a significant gift to the community it serves.”

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