PAE on zoos and aquariums in ECHO Digital

Justin Stenkamp and Allan Montpellier discuss sustainability tactics.

PAE’s Justin Stenkamp and Allan Montpellier sat down for a video chat last month with GLMV Architecture’s ECHO Digital, a monthly conversation series from GLMV Architects. The series welcomes in thought leaders from various industries to connect zoo and aquarium professionals to innovative ideas from inside and outside their field.

In an engaging talk on Designing for Sustainability with GLMV’s Michael Clifford, Curator of Innovation and Partnership, Justin and Allan shared their ideas and past projects that can help zoos and aquariums engage more thoughtfully with the idea of sustainability. As places that hold up a higher purpose of nature and animal conservation, it’s a ripe field.

In thinking about sustainability, zoos and aquariums must juggle internal goals while also keeping the guest and animal experience in mind. As Michael states, “Something that Justin was able to grasp and articulate so well was the connection between all of this innovation and the work that we do, and the meaning and importance for the average person who comes through our spaces.” In speaking of sustainability, boiling the topic down to the Why is always important.

Allan talked about a building’s EUI (Energy Usage Intensity, and how we can apply that to specific exhibits or even types of animals, as some species require higher energy usage than others, so sustainability will look different for each. Using the example of the work PAE did with the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA, Justin shared a thought experiment the team did with ocean acidification that directly affects what guests see in the aquarium day-to-day. In sharing these conservation stories, zoos and aquariums can help people see that even small decisions matter.

“Sustainability is a continuous improvement process where you’re always trying to get incrementally better.”

Justin Stenkamp, PAE

The candid conversation also touched on the difficult work zoos and aquariums do in planning for future expansions, incorporating new innovations, providing excellent care for the animals, and a high-quality educational experience for visitors. In a complicated field, sustainability can still be part of the conversation.

“We always appreciate talking about sustainability challenges and opportunities. This conversation was especially insightful in light of the large steps we can help zoos and aquariums take to increase their sustainability.”

Allan Montpellier, PAE

Watch the summary video here!