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UNT students help animal shelter for project

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

A team of University of North Texas engineering students made Denton’s new animal shelter their capstone project for school, and city and shelter advocates may get more than a fresh set of eyes on the project.

Diane DeSimone, a lecturer in the engineering technology department, said the faculty looks for projects that can help the students get real-world experience.

“The project is supposed to take everything they have learned and apply it to a real-life problem,” DeSimone said.

The students — Vini Deraj, Jonathan Gallaway, David Olsen, Hayden Richardson and Nathan Wood — wanted to pick a project where their work might have an impact, so they picked the new Denton Animal Shelter, according to Olsen.

When they picked the project last fall, they had heard that the city had dropped LEED planning and certification to save money. They wondered, if they worked on the list, whether the city might reconsider, Olsen said.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program certifies structures based on their energy efficiency and other sustainable building practices.

Gallaway began researching the council’s list of items that qualified for points, and tried to focus on those items that the city could use. He included solar panels on the roof, although to make it a LEED option would likely be too expensive for the city at this point.

“They would have to go back and re-do the electrical calculations in order to get the points,” Gallaway said.

But before they were even able to finish their capstone project and make the final presentation this spring, the City Council had already voted more money to the project to bring LEED planning and certification back.

Denton Police Capt. Scott Fletcher was there last week when the students presented their project to the faculty and an industry advisory group. He noted that the students’ proposal included many of the LEED items put forward by the city’s architect, Fletcher said.

Plus, Olsen also had created a three-dimensional walk-through of the building.

Fletcher approached Olsen about getting a copy of the virtual tour. Both the city and the Denton Animal Shelter Foundation, which is raising money for the building and shelter operations, could benefit from it, he said.

Olsen spent about 150-200 hours building the tour and was, this week, putting in some finishing touches before he would pass it on to the city.

“I need to add some paint, desks, chairs and pictures on the walls,” Olsen said. “It will be a full walk-through, from the exterior through the inside.”

Bette Sherman said the foundation continues to raise money to help ease overcrowding at the old shelter.

Spring can be a busier time, and the foundation has been subsidizing adoptions to help with overcrowding.

She wrote the city this week, she said, to let them know that the foundation has suspended plans for education and outreach programs in order to continue subsidizing adoptions until the new shelter opens.

The foundation board estimated that could cost as much as $175,000, and the group urged the city to consider more fee reductions when the shelter becomes overcrowded, as it has been in recent weeks, she said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC