While the human impact of the Flint, Michigan water crisis is well documented, student Sarah Britain chose to focus on another aspect of the situation in the fall of 2016. Sarah discovered that a large population of pets within the Flint area are continuously given tap water because of a lack of bottled water, leading to high incidents of illness and fatalities. By turning her attention to this forgotten constituency, Sarah also found that pets are given to animal shelters when abused, unwanted, or rescued. “Some people”, she felt, “fail to realize the commitment it takes to own a pet, and fail to see the animal as anything more than an object or commodity.”
Sarah’s investigations led her to PAWS Animal Rescue, which takes any animal, whether it is young or old, likely to be adopted or not, and cares for it to the best of their ability. Sarah found that the shelter had recently initiated a building campaign called “Raise The Woof”. With a newly purchased piece of property on the edge of Flint, the rescue was looking to get the campaign moving at a faster rate.
Working with building committee head Roxanne Beckwith, and volunteer and builder Mark Maddock, Sarah and her design partner Gjeorgjia Lilo reviewed previously-generated shelter designs, and proposed a revised version that isolated specific spaces from one another, while allowing for efficient movement throughout the building. “We mainly focused on disbursing the animals along the perimeter of the building”, they state, and “which will allow them direct access to the outdoors, fresh air and copious natural light. The offices are located in the core of the building, which helps with direct access to the animals. The plan also provides for each of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. Generated from a module, the plan is able to easily extend parallel to the site, or even turn 90 degrees in speculation of purchasing the adjacent lot in the future.” They also suggested a truss system to accommodate ventilation zoning and maximize natural light into the shelter, as well as an ERU (Energy Recovery Unit), to utilize the energy from the exhausted air by extracting its heat and transferring it to the supplied outside air.
Sarah and Gjeorgjia describe the ‘PAWSsibilities’ project as focusing on “launching a capital campaign, and raising awareness of proper animal treatment and welfare. Both of these occur within the design and building of a new shelter for PAWS. Knowledge of animal welfare is provided within the design of the spaces within the shelter and surrounding landscape. Creating spaces for resting, feeding, and exercise enhance mental health. Generating images of these spaces, and designating them to specific donation statuses, displays where requested funds will be directed. People are more likely to donate large sums of money to something that they can envision.” Sarah and Gjeorgjia identified naming and sponsorship opportunities in the new shelter, and produced marketing images for inclusion in grant applications. Their efforts were highlighted in an article in the Washington Times. As of summer 2017, these materials have helped PAWS earn $20,000 in grant funding.
Roxanne Beckworth was enthusiastic about the experience of working with Sarah and Gjeorgjia: “We are very impressed at the detail and time that they both put into this project. I am truly appreciative of their time spent on giving us what we needed and they went over and above my expectations. They were very through in asking questions of just what is was that we needed and gracious to come to Flint to meet with me on three separate occasions to get input and complete their project. We are grateful for their willingness to help us meet our needs and thankful that they chose us.”