Conservation Learning Center Open

The Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Learning Center opened at Reid Park Zoo in February of 2008. Zoo staff made a commitment at the outset of this project to build an earth-friendly education center that was consistent with the Zoo’s mission of conservation.

The 10,000 square foot Conservation Learn Center now provides educational opportunities to over 500,000 guests per year. The Wild Ideas exhibit on the ground floor features live animals, and their amazing adaptP1050177ations, as inspirations for green living. Like lizards, the solar panels collect sun during the day and turn it into energy. Like polar bears, the building is well insulated with concrete form walls to minimize energy use for heating and cooling the building. And like a tree snake that coils its body to capture precipitation, the building uses rainwater cisterns to collect water for irrigation. Through these amazing adaptation stories, guests visiting the Learning Center learn to protect and sustain the animals we learn from, and our own species as well.

This building also accommodates the Zoo’s growing education staff and houses a collection of small demonstration animals, which has allowed education programs to expand dramatically. The building is even connected by large windows to an adjoining primate exhibit for animal behavior observation.

Zoo staff decided to seek the ultimate level of “green” and sustainable building certification: LEED® Platinum – a goal that was achieved! LEED Platinum buildings are highly energy and resource efficient and provide superior health and safety for the building’s occupants.

Green features of the building include:

  • Integrated design team / innovative design – the architect, contractor, and owners (us!) worked together from the start
  • Energy efficient heating and cooling
  • High r-value insulation made from denim scraps
  • Triple pane gas-filled windows
  • Use of polystyrene wall systems (Ice Block) and rammed earth
  • Use of renewable energy (photovoltaic solar power)
  • Use of high recycled-content materials – steel, plastic composite lumber, cement fiber board, glass counter tops, etc.
  • Use of rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo and corn fiber fabrics
  • Minimal lumber use – and then only certified sustainable harvest wood
  • Use of extensive porous concrete to prevent water run-off
  • Rainwater harvesting from room
  • Water efficient landscaping and artificial turf
  • Waterless urinals, low flow toilets, and reclaimed water use for flushing
  • Water use reduction through low use fixtures and use of reclaimed water
  • Grey water collection for return to groundwater
  • Construction waste management
  • Solar hot-water heaters
  • Highly reflective, light colored roof
  • Use of local and regional materials whenever possible – with a 500 mile radius
  • Use of appropriate daylighting / operable windows
  • Bamboo stalks salvaged from the site and reused for fencing
  • Shading strategies and appropriate building orientation
  • Shielded light fixtures to improve “dark sky” benefits
  • Use of outdoor teaching space to minimize the need for interior square footage
  • No toxic paints, fumes, or adhesives
  • Green cleaning plan
  • Preferred parking spaces for alternative fuel vehicles and carpoolers
  • Showers / bike lockers to encourage no-fuel commuting

Measurable Results

  • Energy use was reduced by 67% through conservation measures
  • 79% of power requirements supplied by onsite photovoltaics
  • 21% of power requirements supplied by clean grid-based power (Green Watts)
  • 24% of building materials contain recycled content
  • 7% of building materials were salvaged either onsite or from other buildings
  • 38% of materials manufactured locally while 19% extracted or harvested locally
  • 84% of wood is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified Wood.
  • 2.8% of materials, including the cotton insulation, contain rapidly renewable content
  • 79% of construction waste was diverted from landfills!
  • For the interiors, potable water use was reduced by 53%, while potable water use was completely eliminated for the landscaping

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®, established by the United States Green Building Council, is a standard that measures sustainability. In this context, the term describes how well the design and construction process reduces life cycle costs, conserves natural resources, and enhances the quality of work life for its occupants. There are four levels that companies can achieve from the LEED® rating system: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. When we achieved LEED Platinum, we were the first LEED Platinum building in southern Arizona, and the first Platinum project in any zoo or aquarium in the world.