A structure is just that, a structure, until vision and purpose turn it into something more. That “something more” is what the team at Greater Good Charities’ Rescue Rebuild strives for every day. They started with renovating animal shelters, but they soon realized the potential to grow beyond that. Now they build comforting, enriching spaces for pets within animal shelters, domestic violence and homeless shelters, veteran housing, and more.
Their volunteers span the country, including all levels of skill, united by a common goal: transforming bleak structures into vibrant havens that uplift the spirit. They journey to carefully chosen locations across the US, taking a seed of inspiration and nurturing it into healing sanctuaries tailored specifically for each facility and its residents — both human and animal alike. Shelters protect, but a true haven provides hope. And that takes a lot of work.
“We have a team of anywhere from six to eight people that travels with our truck full of tools out to a project, and we're there for a couple of weeks,” said Zach Baker, Vice President, Pet Programs at Greater Good Charities. “We do a big renovation, and then we come home.”
“And of course when COVID happened, we couldn’t do that anymore.”
After spending months catching up on backlogged work, the team turned the downtime into an opportunity for growth by acquiring new skills in computer-aided design (CAD) and rendering. Inspiration struck when Zach first discovered Canvas, sparking the idea of sending a device to shelters to enable them to take charge of their own space planning during the lockdowns. By leveraging their extensive experience, Greater Good Charities is now able to assist shelters in streamlining their projects from design to contractor engagement, enhancing the overall efficiency of their renovation projects.
The Role of 3D Technology in Shelter Renovation
In the past, the way the Greater Good Charities team would prepare for a project would be to send someone out with a tape measure and a notepad and to take highly detailed notes: what a building looks like, what kind of framing they have to deal with, ceiling heights, all the normal things that you would do if you're estimating a project. But now, at the beginning of every project, their tool of choice is Canvas.
3D rendering of a space originally scanned with Canvas
“With Canvas, we’re able to send our iPad Pro to the facility and have them scan the building,” said Zach. “That allows us to have a lot of in-depth data on the existing conditions while saving a ton of time and money. And it also helps the shelter to be able to visualize what the space is going to look like.”
By using Canvas to speed 3D design, Greater Good Charities can use 3D rendering technology to provide shelters with a visual preview of potential renovations. This aids in the visualization process for various stakeholders, such as staff, board members, and residents, facilitating a collaborative and unified project vision.
The Push for Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelters
One of Greater Good Charities’ biggest initiatives is making more domestic violence shelters pet-friendly. Currently, 18% of domestic violence shelters accept pets — and nearly half of domestic abuse survivors delay leaving because they can't take their pets with them. Together with Purina andRedRover, Greater Good Charities is working toward the goal of getting 25% of domestic violence shelters pet-friendly by 2025.
“We also do training to teach the shelters how to start these programs,” said Zach. “The construction is just a small part of it. There are all the protocols that go into having animals in a space — concerns about allergies and bite risks and things like that.”
They also offer comprehensive training for shelters on their resource platform,Don't Forget The Pets. It serves as an educational hub, offering training manuals, webinars, and in-person sessions to support shelter staff in these initiatives.
How Greater Good Charities Has Multiplied Its Mission
Greater Good Charities has capitalized on the Canvas room measuring app to empower shelters by remotely assisting them in designing their renovation projects. By sending an iPad preloaded with Canvas to shelters, they enable on-site staff to perform scans, which Greater Good Charities then uses to generate editable as-built models automatically.
Greater Good Charities' designers then jump to planning their pet (and human) friendly renovations. By working in 3D, they can easily render mockups of the enhanced spaces. These renderings are vital for shelters to initiate fundraising efforts and engage contractors to bring the projects to fruition. Plus, this has helped them offer their services to countless more organizations.
“As a nonprofit, that's why we exist. We want to help more organizations, but we have limited resources to do that,” said Zach. “We are kind of a unique organization. There's not a lot of people doing what we do. And so finding products that work for us is a game changer. And Canvas has just absolutely transformed how we work.”
Greater Good Charities has expanded its capacity to assist shelters by using Canvas for remote support, tripling their outreach from around eighteen projects to up to more than 50 annually, without the need for on-site presence.
"We've been able to help a lot more organizations specifically because of Canvas. If it weren't for Canvas, it would not be possible. We're big fans."