I am excited to bring to your attention a novel concept in animal shelters. Today, we are going to be having a discussion with Harmony House, a cat rescue in Chicago, IL that focuses on being a green, eco-friendly facility. Originally opened in the 1970s, Harmony House re-opened its doors in 2012 with their all new, earth-friendly building. With us from Harmony House is Schrock, a fancy little four-year-old fellow who helps care for the cats that need long-term recovery in the Harmony House medical ward. He loves to entertain the little kittens and occasionally passes out a much needed bath. Welcome, Schrock!
Schrock: Thanks, Crepes, for having me.
Crepes: My pleasure. You’re not green at all, are you?
S: No, why would I be?
C: I thought we were discussing green.
S: Yes, our location, not me. I’m a tabby.
C: I just figured because of your name that –
S: It’s Schrock, not Shrek.
C: I see. Moving along, tell me about Harmony House’s eco-friendly building.
S: Well, it’s our only location, and very advanced in design. Our human friends were planning to replace the flooring and do other remodeling in our older shelter when a donor offered to build us a brand new home with the latest in green technology.
C: Was he anonymous?
C: All the interesting ones seem to be. Continue.
S: This anonymous donor was doing it not only to help all the cats, but to show the community how green technology can be used in commercial buildings. Without that donor’s support, our new building would not have happened. Now, I am no expert on solar panels and geo-thermal wells, but when I heard about all the huge windows we kitties would have, I gave it my full approval.
C: I read on your website that the building’s heating and cooling needs are powered by fourteen geo-thermal wells, twenty solar thermal panels, and a solar photovoltaic system of ninety-six panels. Do you feel that the energy savings of the facility will make up for its own cost in the long run?
S: Because the expense of maintaining all of our complex systems costs as much or more as the gas and electric bills at the old shelter building, the new shelter will not pay for itself in energy savings, BUT it is a giant leap forward in living environment for our furry residents, and has attracted lots of new volunteers and adopters.
C: What are you most proud of that Harmony House has done?
S: I am proud of the attention and nurturing given to every cat or kitten here. The staff and volunteers treat us like their own pets at home. It is about one kitten at a time, and finding out what each one of us needs to fix our injuries or treat any medical problems before being adopted.
C: And, because it’s my forte, how many special needs cats does Harmony House shelter? I know that you have four on-site special needs suites.
S: Harmony House usually has about 30-35% special needs cats at any given time, and we cats are so thrilled when an adopter is willing to adopt a cat on medication or that needs some extra care.
C: I’ve read that the building is designed so that cats in every room have access to natural light and a view of trees and flowers. So life at Harmony House is, well, harmonious?
S: We have cats in open, sun-filled adoption rooms, and it makes our daily life so happy and relaxed that it makes it easy for adopters to get to know us before choosing their new cat.
C: What advice would you offer to other shelters?
S: Even if a shelter cannot go cageless, having several cageless playrooms makes for a more normal life until each cat finds their forever home.
Thanks to Schrock for joining us! You can learn more about Harmony House’s eco-friendly methods here.
To see who’s available for adoption at Harmony House, visit their Petfinder.com page. If you happen to love Schrock, you can see his little bio here. And, if you can, make sure you suggest that your local shelter offer some natural lighting to the animals they care for. It makes a big difference!
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