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Harmony House: An Innovative Cat Shelter in a Green Building

The Chicago facility seeks the highest eco-rating while using a cageless environment for cats.

 |  Sep 5th 2012  |   3 Contributions


Abandoned cats in Chicago no longer have to sing the blues. Instead, they’re yowling more of a "green" tune thanks to the July opening of Harmony House for Cats’ eco-friendly adoption center. This new animal shelter is what's called a "net-zero energy building," which means that it uses less energy than it produces. 

How does it do this? Instead of drawing energy off the power grid or using natural gas to power its furnaces, the shelter uses renewable energy sources to heat and cool the building. 

The folks at Harmony House are aiming to get the building LEED Platinum certification, which is the highest rating in eco-friendly design. This would make the new adoption center one of the greenest animal shelters in the world.

The shelter is powered by solar panels.

Besides being awesome for the environment, this animal shelter was created with its feline residents foremost in mind. Cats live together in a communal setting rather than in cages, so they can socialize. This helps would-be adopters find the the right pet by letting them get a sense of each cat’s true personality by observing how each one interacts in the cageless setting. 

In addition to three large adoption playrooms, Harmony House’s new cat shelter features three admission rooms, four special-needs suites, a medical ward, and a treatment room. These additional rooms are necessary because many of the cats who are brought in to Harmony House are injured, sick, or in need of emergency care. 

One of the Harmony cats enjoys the sunshine.

Regardless of the cost, every cat taken in receives a thorough medical examination, spaying or neutering, vaccinations, a number of tests, microchipping, and any other treatment that might be required before being adopted. 

Unlike most fluorescent-lit medical wards (for cats and people), Harmony House is designed around a central courtyard, so that humans and felines can enjoy natural light streaming through the windows and, of course, a gorgeous view.

“Cats in every room of the new shelter will be able to nap in the sunshine and look out at the trees and plants,” said board president Ann Dieter. 

In fact, within minutes of arriving at the shelter, some of the cats had already staked their claim on the window seats. And within a couple of days, most of the cats were sunning themselves and enjoying the view. 

The center is more than 7,000 square feet to accommodate cats, humans, and the equipment needed to run and monitor its green technology, which includes 14 geothermal wells, 20 solar thermal panels, and a solar photovoltaic system of 96 panels. 

Harmony House was a gift from an anonymous donor who hopes that the new center will inspire other individuals, companies, and organizations to incorporate green technology in their new homes and buildings. Green technology will help Harmony House save the planet and also save on its operating costs, so that more money can go toward rescuing and finding homes for injured and abandoned cats.

Here's hoping that other shelters will find inspiration to go green, helping cats and the environment.

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