Cat Canyon Wins Gold LEED Distinction

Posted November 30, 2012

Zoo’s First Animal Exhibit To Receive LEED Distinction

CINCINNATI, OH (November 30, 2012)The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Cat Canyon exhibit,  which opened in June, just received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)  Gold certification – the second highest rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  This is the Cincinnati Zoo’s 5th LEED certified building – which is the most of any zoo or aquarium in the United States. 

“The most exciting part of this project is that Cat Canyon is the Zoo’s first LEED certification for an animal exhibit.  The Zoo’s other LEED projects have been traditional buildings like the Education Center and the Vine Street Village entryway,” said Mark Fisher, Senior Director of Facilities, Planning and Sustainability at the Cincinnati Zoo. “There is a myth in our industry that you can’t build to LEED standards in an animal exhibit because the design and construction of a typical animal exhibit is not “normal.”  Well this exhibit (along with a handful of others around the country), is proof that this myth is certainly not true.”

Cat Canyon was designed by Cornette-Violetta Architects, LLC and built by HGC Construction.  Some of the green highlights include:

  • Protecting and restoring the existing natural habitat.
  • Using non-heat absorbing materials on the roof and pathway to reduce heat island effect.
  • Reducing water usage for irrigation by 50%.
  • Reducing water usage within the building by 30%.
  • Optimizing energy performance within the existing building with new HVAC equipment and new insulation on the roof.
  • Reusing and maintaining over 95% of the existing building shell (as opposed to tearing it down and starting over ~ keeps waste out of the landfill and reduces the amount of new virgin materials used).
  • Diverted over 75% of the construction waste away from landfills (and to recycling centers).
  • Over 20% of the new materials used were post-consumer recycled.
  • Over 40% of the new materials used were from regional sources (within 500 miles).
  • Interior materials such as adhesives, sealants, paints, and carpets had low VOC contents

The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures. It emphasizes state of the art strategies for sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation & design process. 

The Cincinnati Zoo’s first LEED-certified building (and the first Silver-certified building in Cincinnati) was the Harold C. Schott Education Center, which opened in 2006. With the success of the Education Center, the Zoo pledged to pursue LEED certification on all new construction projects, including the Historic Vine Street Village, which opened in 2009 and received LEED NC Platinum.  The Cincinnati Zoo is the first zoo in America to make such a commitment.  And, one of the Zoo’s critical goals is to brand its green initiatives to the public so environmental stewardship is communicated each day to its more than one million annual visitors.

“The Zoo’s strong commitment to natural resource conservation starts in our parking lot, before you even get out of your car,” said Mark Fisher, Cincinnati Zoo Senior Director of Facilities.  “We proudly display the country’s largest, urban, publicly accessible solar array above our main parking lot as a testament to our aggressive and passionate investment in sustainable living. Building green is the right thing to do for the planet and for the wallet.”

Green building not only provides an obvious, direct, and positive impact on the environment; from lower emissions of greenhouse gases to less storm water entering the sewer system to diverting construction waste from the landfill, but also offers long term financial sustainability.

 “The proof is in the numbers, as we have lowered our utility bills by over 4-million dollars in the last 6 years, spending less than half that amount to achieve those savings,” said Fisher. “The tired old myth that going green is not affordable is false, and we have data to prove otherwise.” 

To learn more about how you can “Go Green” click here.  Experience the wonders of the Zoo’s new energy efficient technology, while also enjoying the animals and sights that we all know and love.