LTU student architects design animal shelter

Release Date: January 5, 2017

Animal Shelter Rendering

An animal shelter in the Flint suburb of Swartz Creek has plans for a new building thanks to a pair of Lawrence Technological University students.

PAWS Animal Rescue is the beneficiary of a site plan and building design for a 32,000-square-foot shelter on 3.6 acres of land the nonprofit owns in Swartz Creek, thanks to LTU seniors Gjeorgjia Lilo and Sarah Britain.

Lilo, from Greece, and Britain, from Kalamazoo, were both involved in an LTU program called Activist Architecture Studio, part of a senior design course, which this semester was concentrating on the Flint area.

“What the professors had us doing was going to Flint and finding organizations that need help to achieve a goal, and figure out how design will help them achieve that goal,” Lilo said.

Added Britain: “I was thinking about the water crisis and who was affected by it other than people, and I thought about pets. I made a list of the animal rescues and pet stores in Flint. PAWS was the first one I visited, and they said they were raising money for a new building, and it just kind of worked out that they needed a designer.”

The two students spent the fall semester visiting the site and coming up with basic plans for the building, which will be able to house about 20 dogs and 40 to 50 cats.

“They want to raise money from grant applications and fundraisers, and we gave them all the materials they need to do that,” Lilo said.

The students also designed the building so it could be expanded in the future.

Roxanne Beckwith, who chairs PAWS’ building committee, said she was impressed with the talents of the Lawrence Tech students. “I am amazed at their knowledge, their ability to complete that project under all the specifications I gave them, the questions they asked,” Beckwith said. “They were so knowledgeable and so caring about what we needed and how important this project is to us.”

Britain had praise for the PAWS folks, too: “They were super easy to work with, and it helped that they were just as excited about the project as we were. They gave good feedback to our design – they really led our design.”

The animal shelter will use the design to continue its fundraising effort, called “Raise the Woof.” PAWS, an acronym for Pets Are Worth Saving, has operated since 2011. Shelter officials have already raised about $40,000 for the new building. Their goal is $385,000.

Massive Change

Lilo and Britain were one of seven LTU senior design teams that worked with Flint-area clients in the fall semester. Other projects included developing elementary school food gardens, building a modular front lobby system for a homeless shelter, and developing water collection systems for public and home gardens. The projects were supervised by Edward Orlowski, associate professor of architecture, and Michael Styczynski, adjunct professor of architecture.

Orlowski said they chose Flint as the focus for last fall’s projects because “We’re already heavily involved in Detroit, and Mike and I saw Flint as an area that wasn’t getting as much attention from the design schools.”

Orlowski said the senior design project has students doing designs for real-world applications. “They get experience working with non-architects in a process of participatory design,” he said. “It’s like working with a client, creating a design team.”

Lilo and Britain, who are to graduate in May with Bachelor of Science degrees in architecture, said they plan to stay in touch with the PAWS group as the project progresses. To donate to the project, visit

PAWS project animation


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