By Jennifer Giacoppo on Oct 13, 2009

Rhode Island Animal Shelter First LEED Gold in U.S.


The Potter League, an animal shelter in Middletown, R.I., recently became the first shelter in the U.S. to earn LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC).

Using an innovative array of sustainable features from a rooftop garden to rainwater cisterns, the $8 million building is an example of a holistic view on animal welfare and resource conservation.

Dogs like Jasper will love their new condos and play areas in the Potter League's revamped building. Photo: Flickr/Amber in Norfolk

Dogs like Jasper will love their new condos and play areas in the Potter League's revamped building. Photo: Flickr/Amber in Norfolk

“The Potter League is about careful use of resources, reclamation, rehabilitation and second chances. We are about health and wellness,” said Sheila Reilly, board president.

“We are about kindness and positive outcomes. Early in the vision process for this new shelter, we knew we wanted to reflect all these values.”

Former Vice President Al Gore praised the shelter, writing “Not only do your achievements reflect your organization’s commitment to bettering the environment, but also your commitment to improving the lives of animals.”

Not only is the Potter League the first animal shelter to gain LEED Gold certification, but it is also the first building in Rhode Island to receive LEED Gold. Some of the green features of the new building include:

  • Plastic wainscoting made from soda and milk bottles
  • A floor made from recycled tires
  • Use of highly renewable radiata pine and bamboo
  • A storm water management system that captures 90 percent of storm water through a 15,000 gallon cistern, utilizing a permeable paved parking lot to absorb runoff. The water will be reused to flush toilets and clean animals’ cages.
  • Landscaping with native plant species including a vegetated rooftop
  • Low-flow toilets and faucets
  • A focus on utilizing natural lighting

The project was also recognized for recycling more than 75 percent of construction materials and demolition waste.

The shelter hopes to create a more inviting atmosphere for its volunteers and employees, noting that they “lost a lot of volunteers” due to the poor setup of its first location. Now, the environment is more welcoming and manageable, and “the dogs are way less stressed,” said Pat Heller, director of development and outreach to the Providence Journal in a recent interview.

“Green design means that this is a more inviting and healthy place for everyone. Utilizing these resources, we solved many of the challenging issues animal shelters normally face, such as disease control, inadequate ventilation, poor lighting, inefficient systems and high utility costs,” said Christie Smith, executive director.

In fact, the shelter’s new fresh-air, hospital-grade ventilation system has reduced upper respiratory illnesses so much that the shelter cannot  participate in a research study of infections common among shelter cats anymore, according to Heller.

Founded in 1929, each year the Potter League provides care to 2,000 homeless, stray and lost animals while offering a diverse number of services to their human counterparts that include education and community outreach.


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