In 2013 the Columbia Greene Humane Society (CGHS) in Hudson, New York built a highly efficient, solar-powered building.
Prior to building its new state-of-the-art facility, CGHS, an animal protection organization serving over 5,000 animals a year, was making do with older buildings that got the job done, but had become run-down and sadly in need of repair. The no-kill shelter places thousands of animals and hosts thousands of visitors. It’s the kind of place that needs to create a welcoming, clean, healthy atmosphere, and that’s hard to do in an older, battle-scarred building.
The impetus behind the new 22,000 square foot shelter building came primarily from executive director Ron Perez, who is familiar with efficient technology from his on-demand hot water system at home. The shelter building was designed by Len Angerame Architects of Albany, New York, a company which specializes in senior living architecture; has a beautiful reception area, meet and greet rooms, and all the fixings to keep animals healthy and comfortable as they find their new families. Engineer David Robinson, on the CGHS board, was also part of the design process. The building was constructed by AOW Associates, a general contractor in Albany, New York.
A non-profit, CGHS funded the new building through donations, bequests, and sponsors. They also took out a mortgage, which has already been paid off. Perez says, “From soup to nuts it costs $15,000 to run the place, which is very impressive for this size building and facility.”
According to Nancy Mallery, publisher of Green Energy Times (G.E.T.), who adopted two Newfoundland dogs from the shelter, “…the way they do things there as a non-profit is super impressive. They took care of vet checks, even spaying and neutering both [dogs] at no cost to me (would have been over $300 for my local vet to do…”
The efficiency features and solar array allow the CGHS facility to to be close to net zero. Efficiency designed into the building from the very beginning reduced the need for electricity to a level that the solar system could meet. That starts with blown-in insulation in the roof, and foam on the outside of the building. LED lighting came courtesy of a $16,000 grant from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). The shelter uses Energy Star refrigerators. Both the LEDs and the efficient appliances reduce the need for cooling in the summer, as they don’t produce excess heat while running.
The dishwashers, made by FAGOR, are the type used in bars and restaurants. They have their own separate reservoir, allowing reuse of the water that is maintained at 180 degrees. That temperature is high enough to kill pathogens, and the machines use a short, intense wash cycle of just 45 seconds. This saves water and energy, and uses very little soap. Hot water is supplied by a propane-fired on-demand hot water heater, which is extremely efficient, and as Ron says, “saves you a ton of money.”
The building is heated and cooled with top-of-the-line Carrier heat pumps. Ron said, “…the logic in them is impressive in that it saves energy and money.” The heat pumps were installed by Eastern Heating and Cooling of Albany, NY. The heat pumps carry most of the load; when the outside temperature goes down to 18 degrees, a high-efficiency propane backup system automatically kicks in. The energy recovery ventilation system (ERV) normally exchanges the air twelve times an hour. The shelter arranged to have a dial put on so at night the system only exchanges twice an hour, saving a lot of money. It is turned up in the morning. ERV systems pre-cool and dehumidify air in warmer seasons, and pre-warm and humidify it in colder seasons. They reduce the needed capacity of HVAC equipment, reducing energy use, and help maintain a comfortable relative humidity and good air quality. The ERV system was installed by Sunlight General Capital (SGC), a solar energy equipment supplier in New York City. SGC says on their website, “We build and finance renewable energy projects for our clients, saving them money compared to their regular utility bill, often at no upfront cost to them. We then operate these projects to maximize savings for our clients, while bringing strong and predictable returns to our investors.”
The solar-system which powers all this was installed by Monolith Solar, later bought out by Eastern Heating and Cooling. Monolith offered CGHS a package which cost half a million dollars, but the energy payments still represented a 20% reduction in cost. Ron says, “The solar produces pretty much everything we need,” which in a facility serving 5,000 animal clients annually, is a tall order, and a tribute to the thought and care put into efficiency.
The shelter later added a commercial wing more which houses a boarding facility and doggie day care. This was also designed and built (by AOW) with energy efficiency in mind, with Comfortmaker Soft Sound heat pumps (owned by Carrier) and blown-in insulation. The shelter, day care and boarding facility operate with very little waste. Plastic and stainless steel are washed in those efficient dishwashers. Donated food and treat bags represent most of the landfill waste. All cardboard is recycled, and poop is trucked off-site.
Good design, forethought, and efficient technology have helped CGHS save thousands of lives, and saved the organization many thousands of dollars that it has put to good use, rescuing animals in distress and connecting them to new human families. Are they happy they went solar? Perez says, “Oh yeah. Saves you forever. Will always save you money.”
Source links available online in the posting of this article at greenenergytimes.org.
Jessie Haas has lived in a 450 sf off-grid cabin for over 35 years. She is the author of 40-plus books for children and adults, including The Hungry Place.