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JFK Airport Upgrades its Animal Transportation Facilities

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

A new terminal, which will open in 2016, will contain an animal-handling depot for livestock and exotic animals as well as a boarding facility and spa for companion pets.

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A portion of the space in The ARK at JFK, the world’s first airline terminal dedicated to animals, will be operated by the Chicago-based company Paradise 4 Paws as a 20,000 sq ft companion animal boarding resort and spa. © ARK Development, LLC, 2012-2015

August 4, 2015—Next year will see the opening of the world's first airline terminal dedicated to animals—both the large and functional and the small and cuddly varieties. An existing cargo terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is being rehabilitated and renovated so that it can be transformed into "The ARK at JFK"—an animal-handling depot that will hold livestock and exotic animals and will also include a quarantine center, a veterinary services hospital, and a companion-animal boarding resort and spa. 

"One of the main design objectives is to upgrade this former cargo facility to a public-facing building suitable for human and animal occupancy," said John Kuehn, a project manager working on The ARK for the Washington, D.C., office of the integrated architecture, design, and planning firm Gensler. Kuehn wrote in response to answers posed by Civil Engineering online. The facility will handle horses, livestock, birds, exotic animals, and pets that will be transported to the site via aircraft or other cargo vehicles, according to material distributed by ARK Development, LLC, a subsidiary of the real estate company Racebrook Capital, which has offices in New York and San Francisco. ARK Development holds a 32-year lease on the space from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The terminal will be the world's only privately owned integrated air-freight center for animals, according to the developer. It will offer in-transit companion animal handling facilities, USDA-approved equine and aviary import and export quarantine facilities, a veterinary hospital, a diagnostic laboratory, and a Paradise 4 Paws boarding center with training and grooming services, according to material released by ARK Development.

The ARK will be located in the airport's cargo building 78, which has been vacant since 2004. The approximately 178,000 sq ft building is located on a 14.4-acre site with both airside and landside access. The animal-handling center will use 108,650 sq ft of that space, of which 20,000 sq ft will be used for the pet-boarding facility and 6,000 sq ft will be used for the veterinary clinic. There will also be a cargo handling facility of approximately 63,515 sq ft.

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[5. Export stalls] (horses) The terminal will contain equine and aviary import and export facilities that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The facility will include stalls in which animals can be given food and water and otherwise cared for while their travel documents are processed. © ARK Development, LLC, 2012-2015

"Animal safety and comfort, as it pertains to travel and quarantine, et cetera, is the primary design goal," Kuehn said. "Inherent in that, there is [also] an opportunity create some architecture through the design of new skin systems/facades of the existing building as well as completely new interiors." The work will retain the existing steel structure of the terminal, according to material provided by ARK Development. A new roof, exterior skin, and structural reinforcement to the retained skeleton and footings will be added, according to Kuehn. 

"This project is unique for at least two main reasons: one, this is effectively an adaptive use of an old, noncode-compliant building," Kuehn said. "A huge challenge was the realization that the original structure of this preengineered building was structurally designed precisely for its original intended purpose—no more, no less.

"Then, we take one step further, and we design this 'new' building where animals are the primary occupants," he noted. The ARK will contain large-animal handling systems and "departure lounges" with climate-controlled pens and stalls equipped with bedding and natural light, where the animals can be given food and water and otherwise cared for while their travel documents are processed. Planes will be able to taxi directly to the terminal's loading dock to ease the loading of the larger animals.

Designing for animals differs from designing for humans in many ways, Kuehn said. "When designing for humans alone, there are vast resources [to call on], ranging from past experience to best practices to building codes that pretty much dictate program layout and tolerances." In designing for animals, Kuehn and his team relied on the client's expertise. "Our client has excellent knowledge of animals and animal facilities, [and] we and our client have partnered with specialists in the field that help shape the design to be sure our design is beyond suitable for animals and their needs," he explained. "Special attention has been paid to flooring, wall construction and finishes, door heights, corridor widths, [and] special mechanical and ventilation systems, to name a few."

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A livestock-handling system designed by Temple Grandin, Ph.D., a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University-Fort Collins, will also be located at the terminal, which is slated to open in 2016. © ARK Development, LLC, 2012-2015

Selective demolition of parts of the outdated cargo building began in May.



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