Cincinnati Zoo’s Painted Dog Valley Achieves Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification

Visitors get face to face with African painted dogs in Painted Dog Valley
Visitors get face to face with African painted dogs in Painted Dog Valley

Only Zoo in the world and first project in Ohio to earn this coveted sustainability recognition

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Painted Dog Valley has achieved the International Living Future Institute’s ambitious and optimistic Living Building Challenge petal certification. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings and recognizes spaces that give more than they take.

“For the past decade, sustainable design and construction has been a cornerstone of our Zoo’s operations. By designing, building, and operating our buildings to have as little impact as possible on our planet, we are not only lowering our environmental footprint, but we are also making an investment in our long term financial future,” said Mark Fisher, Cincinnati Zoo’s vice president of facilities and sustainability. “LBC takes our efforts to a whole new level. It challenged our team to think differently and to really push ourselves to come up with a habitat that truly has a positive impact on our environment and our community. Of all the accolades that our sustainability program has received over the last 10 years, this certification might just be the most meaningful.”

Known as the “Greenest Zoo in America®,” the Cincinnati Zoo has been committed to maintaining the highest standard of sustainability for all building projects. In 2006, the Education Center was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification, one of the first LEED certified buildings in Cincinnati. Since then, the Zoo has achieved LEED certification for each new construction project, including:

  • LEED Platinum for Historic Vine Street Village in 2009
  • LEED Gold for the Pavilion in 2009
  • LEED Gold for the Zoo Gift Shop in 2010
  • LEED Gold for Cat Canyon in 2012
  • LEED Silver for the Shipping/Receiving building in 2012.
  • LEED Gold for Africa Phase 3 in 2016

As rigorous and thorough as LEED certification is, the Living Building Challenge attains an even greater measure of a building’s sustainability by measuring actual, rather than modeled, performance. The Challenge asks the question, “What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?” The LBC evaluation, conducted after 12 consecutive months of Painted Dog Valley being in operation, gave the dog habitat high marks for being made with long-lasting materials, fostering a sense of community and immersing visitors in the natural beauty of the African savannah.

“Our design team is constantly looking to push the green envelope and to help the Greenest Zoo in America® achieve sustainability goals. With LBC certification, we certainly accomplished this goal,” said Greg Speidel, senior project manager for HGC, the Zoo’s construction partner. “We delivered one of the most sustainable buildings and sites in our market and also created an education piece on how similar projects can be accomplished in the rust belt.”

Painted Dog Valley is part of the Zoo’s Africa exhibit, which includes habitats for lions, meerkats, giraffe, hippos, cheetahs and painted dogs. Africa sits on storm water tanks that provide all the water used for waterfalls, moats and streams in the exhibit.

“The Cincinnati Zoo’s Painted Dog Valley is a shining example of how the Living Building Challenge can be applied in a variety of projects,” said Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). “This is truly a unique project as they are the first Zoo to achieve Living Building Challenge certification. We are proud to be part of the Greenest Zoo in America®.”

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The world famous Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is committed to inspiring visitors to care about wildlife and wild places. It has been rated the #1 attraction locally and one of the top zoos in the nation by Zagat Survey. It has also received rave reviews from Child Magazine, Parents Magazine, USA Today and TripAdvisor. Over 1.5 million people visit the Zoo’s award-winning exhibits, and more than 500 animal and 3000 plant species annually. The Zoo, an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), is internationally known for its success in the protection and propagation of endangered animals and plants and engages in research and conservation projects worldwide. Known as the #GreenestZooInAmerica, the Zoo is doing its part to conserve natural resources that are critical to saving wildlife and its habitats and is committed to greening its daily operations and reducing its impact on the environment through the use of rain gardens, recycled building materials, solar panels and more. The Cincinnati Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The International Living Future Institute is a hub for visionary programs. The Institute offers global strategies for lasting sustainability, partnering with local communities to create grounded and relevant solutions, including green building and infrastructure solutions on scales ranging from single room renovations to neighborhoods or whole cities. The Institute administers the Living Building Challenge, the environment’s most rigorous and ambitious performance standard. It is the parent organization for Cascadia Green Building Council, a chapter of both the United States and Canada Green Building Councils that serves Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. It is also home to Ecotone Publishing, a unique publishing house dedicated to telling the story of the green building movement's pioneering thinkers and practitioners.

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