Eco-Friendly Triumph: Faithful Friends Secures DNREC Grant for Energy-Efficient Animal Center

Jane Pierantozzi started Faithful Friends Animal Society in 2000 with a clear mission: providing care for animals in need while enforcing a no-kill policy.

Faithful Friends Animal Society's new facility in New Castle is pictured.
Faithful Friends Animal Society’s new $8.4 million facility is located in New Castle. (Submitted photo/Faithful Friends Animal Society)

For much of its existence, Faithful Friends’ animal center was a converted warehouse in New Castle. But it gradually became clear that the shelter had outgrown the space and needed a new facility, preferably one designed to function as an animal center.

“It was taking a beating because it wasn’t made for animals,” Pierantozzi, the executive director of the not-for-profit, said.

In 2018, Faithful Friends began a capital campaign to raise funds for a new adoption and community resource center along Airport Road.

Among the prerequisites, she knew, was that it be energy efficient. Making it so would help reduce utility costs — a big help for a small entity that’s trying to maximize efficiencies to put as much as possible toward directly helping animals.

After learning about the Energy Efficiency Investment Fund (EEIF) from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Pierantozzi knew it sounded like a good fit.

“The main goal of the program is to help customers replace aging, inefficient equipment with more energy-efficient alternatives,” said Wylie Feaster, program manager for EEIF, which is housed in the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy.

Faithful Friends approached DNREC in February 2023 to inquire about the possibility of a grant. The organization worked with the lead third-party program implementer, NV5, to pull together the application.

Dogs in a cages at Faithful Friends' animal shelter are pictured.
Faithful Friends houses many dogs. It was important the organization’s new water system be energy-efficient because the shelter uses a lot of water to clean cages. (Submitted photo/Faithful Friends Animal Society)

The EEIF program, which started in 2011 for existing building structures and expanded in 2023 to include new construction, is open to non-residential buildings and offers four primary rebate pathways: Energy Assessments, Prescriptive Improvements, Custom Improvements and Combined Heat and Power.

“This was a custom project, meaning they opted to bundle a wide variety of different energy-efficient measures into a comprehensive full facility upgrade that maximizes energy savings and cost-effectiveness. We were really excited to support this project,” Douglas Gilman, NV5 senior consultant, said.

It was just the second new construction project supported (the first was an exterior lighting project for an unrelated building) under the EEIF program.

The application process, Pierantozzi said, was extremely smooth, in large part to the diligent assistance provided by NV5.

Once DNREC checked that Faithful Friends paid into the Public Utility Tax, which is required to qualify for the program, and the documents for the application were submitted, all that was left was to send the grant to Faithful Friends. Through EEIF Faithful Friends received $73,959 dedicated to helping maximize energy efficiency and environmental performance. While that’s a fraction of the total $8.4 million cost of the building, it was an important contribution, Pierantozzi emphasized.

“Every cent helps. We had to raise about $350,000 more to finish the building, so this $74,000 gift, when it came, was a big help to help us finish the campaign,” she said.

That money was used for interior and exterior lighting, an HVAC system, solar tubes, a water heater and appliances.

Faithful Friends Animal Society employees and volunteers pose for a photo at the not-for-profit's new animal shelter.
In addition to its employees, Faithful Friends Animal Society depends on volunteers to fulfill its mission of being a no-kill animal shelter. (Submitted photo/Faithful Friends Animal Society)

The lighting, designed by the Bacon Group, an architecture firm that specializes in animal welfare centers, is set to automatically turn off when offices and meeting rooms are not in use. Solar tubes in certain animal living spaces allow Faithful Friends to keep the lights off at times and instead take advantage of natural lighting to illuminate areas. The efficient gas-fired condensing water heater is important because Faithful Friends uses a significant amount of water daily to clean cages. The HVAC, which like the water heater was designed by the engineering firm Blake and Vaughn, consists of eight units across the 17,500-square-foot facility, enabling the shelter to isolate sick animals to avoid spreading illnesses.

The new shelter is far more energy efficient, which not only helps save money for Faithful Friends but is good for the environment.

“The EEIF program does prioritize projects that will produce the greatest amount of energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions,” Feaster said. “This project started from the ground up and grew into a really amazing, expansive facility that is now equipped with a diverse assortment of energy-efficient equipment and technology.”

It’s clear the project was a success not just for Faithful Friends but for the Energy Efficiency Investment Fund as well, perfectly meeting the program’s purpose.