John Ball Zoo First Zoo in World to Receive SITES Gold Certification for Sustainability

John Ball Zoo’s meerkat exhibit is awarded SITES Gold certification under the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system. SITES is the most comprehensive program recognizing sustainable landscapes for their exceptional planning, design, construction, and maintenance.

SITES certification is given to landscapes, site infrastructure, and spaces that demonstrate a high level of environmental and social sustainability. SITES Gold certification for the meerkat exhibit makes John Ball Zoo the first zoo in the world to receive this recognition.  

“By being the first zoo in the world to receive SITES Gold certification, it speaks to John Ball Zoo’s strong dedication to our pillar of conservation,” said Peter D’Arienzo, Chief Executive Officer for John Ball Zoo.

The Sustainable SITES Initiative is a comprehensive rating system for developing sustainable landscapes, similar to LEED. SITES projects use fewer resources by using materials with recycled content, durable and reclaimed materials, and the use of regionally sourced supplies and materials.

“By building a meerkat exhibit to SITES certification, John Ball Zoo is reducing water demand, filtering and reducing storm water runoff, providing wildlife habitat, reducing energy consumption, improving air quality, improving human health, and increasing outdoor recreation opportunities,” added D’Arienzo.  

While the exhibit creates an amazing view of meerkats and their exhibit partner, the African cape porcupine, it is the many features guests do not see that make the exhibit unique. One is the on-demand manual irrigation system that uses 100% native plantings. Some of which were grown from locally harvested seeds from Plaster Creek Stewards. The space uses rain gardens and leaching basins for storm water, and has a living green roof and solar panels on the exhibit canopy to offset outdoor lighting needs. During construction, recycled materials were used whenever possible, and CO2 emissions were eliminated through the use of an Energy Recovery Ventilation unit. This innovative exhibit also integrates play for children to mimic meerkats behavior, along with a pathway that is accessible.

Sustainable landscapes appreciate in value over time, rather than depreciate. John Ball Zoo’s SITES gold-certified meerkat exhibit will continue to have plants grow, soils improve, habitats develop, and in turn, people are nurtured by this environment. These benefits we receive from healthy ecosystems are essential to the health and well-being of all life on this planet.

Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), SITES offers a comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes, measure their performance and elevate their value. SITES certification is for development projects located on sites with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes to homes, and more.

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