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Every project comes with unique conditions, but determining a plan for an animal care, adoption, and resource center comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. The team for the Harris County Pets Adoption Center tackled challenges to deliver a beautiful, state-of-the-art clinic for the community.


Serving functions ranging from animal intake, adoption, and housing to veterinary wellness services, community outreach, and education center all under one roof, the needs were vast for Harris County Pets. A complex of five building areas connected by corridors, the 55,000-square-foot multi-faceted veterinary health center required strategic phasing and coordination to overcome the challenges presented by the center’s various func­tions and needs.

In addition to the complexity of requirements for an animal shelter such as a the indoor/outdoor dog kenneling system, animal intake/ outtake areas, and medical equipment for separate veterinary services, the design and materials were unconventional as well. The building structure and envelope were a hybrid design inclusive of traditional structural steel, cold-formed metal framing, and pre-engineered metal building system (PEMB) with masonry and metal panel claddings, which necessitated a different approach before the project commenced. Because the actual PEMB system design was not part of the contract bid drawings, it was only after bid day that awarded PEMB-supplier design could be integrated into the design to be constructed.

Having deferred drawings presented the first challenge of getting the PEMB system designed and coordinated with the structural system to get off the ground with foundations. Furthermore, because this was not a standalone PEMB system, but rather one that integrated with an architectural wall envelope of cold-formed metal stud wall framing and waterproofing systems, another level of coordination was required to ensure transition points between the two systems were compatible and met the overall project intent.

Compounding these coordination challenges was the fact that the PEMB drawing dimensions and layouts utilized did not exactly match the architectural and structural drawings due to how PEMB designs their systems. This entailed additional calculations and verifications to ensure coordination of these two systems. We decided early in the project to spearhead several meetings with these parties to make sure we were all on the same page as well as to help expedite shop drawing approvals and related RFI responses. This alleviated potential issues as well as opened the lines of communica­tion between all parties to help establish a collaborative approach to handle issues that reared their head during construction.


Once the structural plan was finalized, the team had to determine phasing to account for unconventional requirements of housing, treating, and caring for animals. To ensure optimal design and func­tionality, the team provided physical mockups during coordination of the items. “We mocked up the indoor/outdoor kennel, guillotine door system, cat cage trims to name a few,” said Senior Project Manager Robbie Jacobs.

The mockup of the indoor/outdoor dog kennel was particularly invaluable to uncovering and eliminating a potential problem during construction. “It taught us that the float forms used to create the floor slopes in the kennels needed to remain in place while the concrete set to better define the sloping to drains and wall transitions between the kennels,” said Jacobs. “Typically, float forms are supported by wooden stakes that must be pulled early before the concrete com­pletely sets to maintain the integrity of the concrete.”

Our mockup revealed that pulling these forms early—which is typical—created a finishing issue with the drain slopes and wall areas between the kennels. We determined the best ap

proach was to utilize metal stakes that could be left in the concrete and cut flush with slab later without affecting the concrete’s integrity. This allowed us to leave the kennel form floats in place until the concrete was com­pletely set. The result was consistent, well-defined kennel drain slopes and wall areas that required no corrections—a big win for project quality considering we constructed 253 kennels for this project.


Sequencing and planning were also crucial to maintaining a positive experience for the public, as well as ensuring a safe and healthy envi­ronment for the animals housed in the shelter during construction. Due to our schedule and logistics sequence, we had to remove the end-user’s outdoor dog parks where patrons get acquainted with pets they are considering adopting. We were able to utilize temporary fencing and repurpose benches to provide temporary dog parks, so this experience could continue. It is often a challenge when con­struction efforts in some way compromise or reduce ongoing owner operations. “Finding ways to maintain a semblance of normalcy, to preserve the experience—even if imperfect—is an important part of the construction experience we want to deliver to our owners and their patrons being served,” said Jacobs.

Officially opened in Fall 2020, JE Dunn added a personal touch to further improve the community experience, custom-painted picnic benches. “This facility is so important to the community, for the animals and the residents,” said Jacobs. “We were excited to gift the tables to add a bit of character and fun for the patrons.”