John Ball Zoo pursuing Living Building Challenge Petal certification for upcoming habitat

Media Mention

By Kate Klemp April 18, 2023

Originally Published on FOX17 Online

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Ball Zoo’s upcoming pygmy hippo habitat will feature the most rigorous sustainability standards in the building industry. The exhibit is scheduled to open this spring.

John Ball Zoo broke ground on the pygmy hippo habitat in 2021. The zoo is currently pursuing a Living Building Challenge Petal certification (LBC) for the project, which is the highest green building certification.

The zoo has taken several steps to achieve the certification. One step was to make sure the materials used to build the pygmy hippo habitat can be recycled, and that they aren’t emitting harmful chemicals into the environment. To make sure of this, every single material that was used in the design and construction of the project was vetted. During construction, John Ball Zoo reused materials from a former zoo building.

In the building’s operation, geothermal heating and cooling systems will be used. This will reduce energy use by 70% relative to the project’s baseline output. Water usage will be reduced by 50%, and 95% of waste from demolition and construction will be diverted from a landfill. The exhibit will also use solar energy through a pergola topped with solar panels, which guests will be able to stand under.

Part of the certification involves creating spaces for the community, as well as ensuring access for all. To do this, the zoo has lessened the incline of footpaths around the habitat and at the zoo’s entrance. The habitat also includes two gender-neutral restrooms, a comfort station for those who are nursing, and an adult-sized changing table.

Since the Living Building Challenge Petal certification is performance based, John Ball Zoo will monitor the sustainability standards of the exhibit for a year to make sure it meets all of the requirements.

“John Ball Zoo is proud to take on the challenge of achieving our Living Building Challenge Petal certification because we are deeply committed to conserving resources and wildlife and protecting our planet through sustainability,” said Allmon Forrester, director of facilities, planning, and sustainability at John Ball Zoo. “The new habitat will be an exciting addition to the zoo and provide opportunities for our guests to learn about conserving wildlife and wild places.”

The pygmy hippo habitat will open at the John Ball Zoo this spring.