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HGC helps the Cincinnati Zoo to become first zoo to earn petal certification

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has met a new sustainability benchmark. The zoo’s Painted Dog Valley has earned the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) petal certification.

“Our design team is constantly looking to push the green envelope and to support the Greenest Zoo in America® achieve sustainability goals.  With LBC certification, we certainly accomplished this goal,” said Greg Speidel, Senior Project Manager for HGC, the Zoo’s construction partner.  “We delivered one of the most sustainable buildings and sites in our market and also created an education piece on how similar projects can be accomplished in the rust belt.”

Cincinnati Zoo the first zoo in the world to earn a LBC petal certification. The LBC is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings and recognizes spaces that give more than they take. The certification is based on actual rather than predicted performance and was awarded after Painted Dog Valley had been in operation for a full year. Much harder, even, than the seven (7) LEED certifications that HGC has helped the zoo earn in the past. And it means another first for the zoo: Painted Dog Valley is the first project in the zoo’s history on which it will never pay utility bills!

The zoo’s Africa exhibit, where Painted Dog Valley is located, already had some infrastructure in place to help us achieve our LBC goal:

  • The whole zoo, including Africa, gets 25 percent of its power from the solar panels in the parking lot.
  • A 400,000-gallon rain tank sits underneath Painted Dog Valley. It provides 25 percent of the zoo’s water, including all of the water needed for Painted Dog Valley and the rest of the Africa exhibit.

These components offered a head start toward LBC certification, but there were still a lot of others to put in place. Like, a couple hundred solar panels on the building next to Painted Dog Valley, efficient geothermal heat pumps and LED lights. Even the materials had to be carefully considered, as the standard prohibits certain common ones, such as PVC.

The Challenge asks the question, “What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?” As the exhibit was designed and built in the most sustainable
way possible, there were seven specific key performance areas, called Petals, to be addressed. The Petals are: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. To earn “Living” status, the building project is evaluated after at least 12 consecutive months of operation, and must have met the imperatives of each of each Petal.

  • SITE: Imperatives include: Limits to Growth, Urban Agriculture, Habitat Exchange, and Car-Free Living
    The African painted dog exhibit was once a large asphalt parking lot. A variety of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses were planted to convert most of the site into green space. Over time, it will grow into a thriving ecosystem that attracts native pollinators and birds. The “right-sized” animal holding building is also topped with a green roof.
  • WATER: Imperatives include: Net Zero Water, and Ecological Water Flow
    All rain water on the site is collected and stored for reuse in a 400,000 gallon underground reservoir. The water is used for irrigation, filling the water moats and to hose down back-of-house animal areas. Grey and Black water will be treated on site and reused within the exhibit.
  • ENERGY: Imperative includes: Net Zero Energy
    The high performance African painted dog holding building achieves net-zero energy by requiring very little energyand by sourcing what energy it does need from solar arrays. Exhibit features such as the waterfalls are “turned off” during closed times to conserve energy usage.
  • HEALTH & HAPPINESS: Imperatives include: Civilized Environment, Healthy Air, Biophilia
    The African painted dog exhibit provides a robust healthy space, which appeals to our sense of interconnectedness with nature. Fresh air, a lushly planted landscape and
    accessible walking paths contribute to human health and happiness.
  • MATERIALS: Imperatives include: Red List, Embodied Carbon Footprint, Responsible Industry, Appropriate Sourcing, Conservation + Reuse
    The African painted dog exhibit was built with efficient, long-lasting materials and methods that minimized waste during construction as well as into the future. Tilt-up
    concrete panels containing insulation and stainless steel resulted in a low maintenance and durable structure that is 85-90% recyclable. All waste is collected in provided
    receptacles, then disposed of properly at local recycling centers or compost facilities.
  • EQUITY: Imperatives include: Human Scale + Humane Places, Democracy + Social Justice, Rights to Nature
    The African painted dog exhibit was designed to foster a sense of community. Equally accessible to people of all abilities, the naturalistic exhibit creates an intimate setting
    for developing relationships between people and nature.
  • BEAUTY: Imperatives include: Beauty + Spirit, Inspiration + Education
    The African painted dog exhibit immerses you in the natural beauty of the African savannah from colorful foliage to richly textured rocks to a babbling brook. We want you to
    feel as if you and the animals share the same space, fostering a close connection that inspires you to care for and conserve one of Africa’s most threatened species.

HGC Construction has helped the zoo has saved millions on its utility bills through its sustainable building efforts. The zoo has cut utility spending in half in recent years despite having added more buildings. In 2006, the Education Center was awarded LEED Silver Certification, becoming one of the first LEED certified buildings in Cincinnati. Since then, HGC has helped the Zoo achieve LEED certification on more than a half dozen construction projects.

In the news:

Cincinnati Zoo’s Painted Dog Valley earns ‘green’ benchmark, Cincinnati.com
Cincinnati Zoo Pursues “Living Building Challenge, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden