The Oregon Zoo Education Center Showcases Net Zero Solutions That Inspire

PAE's design for the Oregon Zoo Education Center project was recently recognized for design excellence by ACEC Oregon.

PAE was recently recognized for design excellence by ACEC Oregon. The firm was awarded the top honor of the 2018 Engineering Excellence Grand Award for the new Oregon Zoo Education Center.

About the Project
In 2008, voters approved a $125 million bond to improve the Oregon Zoo. The Education Center was identified as a project which would not only enhance visitor experience, but serve as a unique interpretive showcase for conservation and building sustainability.

Located on the Discovery Plaza, the Education Center is bordered by a woodland and gardens, and includes the Insect Zoo, the Conservation Hall meeting space, administration support offices, Nature Exploration Station, Nest Center educational space, and a café.

Highlighting the theme of “Small Things Matter,” the spaces are designed to be a voice for community education, not only in the displays and exhibits but in the building systems themselves. Expected to achieve Net Zero Energy, the building is completely fossil-fuel free, and runs entirely on energy it harvests itself. Using a combination of solar panels along with thoughtful low-energy mechanical systems like radiant heating and high-efficiency lighting, designers were able to create a quietly beautiful space with minimal impact. A major opportunity this offers is the chance to show these systems to the many visitors the Zoo welcomes. To do that, windows showcasing building systems were included where there typically are none, and informative graphics and interactive screens allow people to discover how the building uses energy.

This creates a building that is intrinsically educational, working to advance the Zoo’s goals of conservation even while offering its 1.6 million yearly visitors an exciting new experience.