Veterinary Medical Center

Learn about the Veterinary Medical Center, a major new community-supported facility designed for animal healing and care.

The Oregon Zoo's brand new Veterinary Medical Center opens January 19, 2012! The center was the number one priority among all of the improvements funded under the Oregon Zoo bond, meeting a critical need for zoo animals and veterinary staff. It provides comforting, climate controlled spaces that support animals' health and healing. Zoo veterinarians appreciate working with new efficient equipment and technology in bright and flexible spaces. The new center is a certified green building sporting dozens of water and energy saving features. The zoo broke ground on the new center in August, 2010.

Zoo veterinarians treat an amazing variety of animals that come in all shapes, sizes and species. Some live on land, some in water and some in the air. As doctors conduct checkups and treat ailments of southern sea otters, monitor lizards and marabou storks, they need to adjust the conditions to suit the animal. The new facility accommodates each animal's special needs in comforting, custom-designed spaces where temperature, light and humidity can be adapted for each patient. The new building includes heated and rubberized floors and adjustable air and water temperatures. Perches, ropes and elevated beds accommodate the movements and sleeping needs of birds and primates. Vets can open rolling skylights to provide animals with fresh outside air and views of the sky.

Big improvements over former hospital

The former vet hospital was designed to meet or exceed 1970s veterinary care standards and to support an active behavioral research program that existed at the zoo at that time. A lot has changed in veterinary care since then and the building was outdated in many ways. For example, several rooms were controlled by a single thermostat, making it difficult to adapt temperatures to meet the very different needs of warm- and cool-climate animals. Air flow could not be fully controlled from room to room, making it impossible to prevent human or animal exposure from an animal in quarantine.

Zoo vets worked with architects and contractors at every stage of design and construction to develop a facility that not only resolves these issues but also keeps animals calm, reduces their stress and promotes healing. The new 15,000-square-foot medical center is larger than the former hospital and includes roomy well-lit examination, x-ray and surgical spaces in an efficient floor plan that allows staff to provide diagnosis and treatment with minimal movement of the animal. 

A certified green building

In addition to providing a healing area for animals, the new Veterinary Medical Center is an excellent example of the earth-friendly features integrated into every new zoo exhibit and facility. The building meets US Green Building Council LEED Gold certification standards for sustainability.

The project team exceeded their goal of recycling 90 percent of construction waste. To accommodate the building, 78 trees were removed. The firs and cedars were used in stream restoration in the Sandy River watershed; the deciduous trees were chipped and used as mulch. In their place, 198 native trees and 171 native shrubs were planted. Once established, they will require no irrigation.

A 30,000-gallon round galvanized cistern captures harvested rainwater from the roof for reuse on the site. The building is naturally lit by 35 solar tubes. A variety of sensors adjust interior lights depending on whether rooms are occupied and the amount of ambient light from windows and solar tubes. Tap water is solar heated. Building materials are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Carpet, tile, rubber floors, counter tops, steel and wood were all chosen for high recycled content.

Art illustrates bones, muscles, feathers and fur

Terra cotta tiles on the exterior walls in the entry plaza replicate the textures of zebra fur and snakeskin. Tinted glass tiles illustrate elephant blood cells as seen under the microscope and microorganisms that make up an animal's inner ecosystem. These are the works of Seattle artist Steven Gardner. Visitors to the interior lobby cross inset glass and ceramic mosaics that illustrate, in x-ray view, the muscular structure of a rabbit and the intricate skeletal structure of a condor in flight. Others capture the markings of a leopard and the thoughtful gaze of the zoo's fondly remembered chimpanzee, Charlie. These are the work of Portland-based artist Margaret Kuhn. As with all Oregon public construction projects, one percent of the overall budget of the center was invested in these stunning art elements.

The zoo is grateful to the people of the Portland metropolitan area for supporting this and other zoo improvements. Come see the results of your investment.

Watch Campbell Crane’s 300-ton, six-axle crane, the largest available in Portland, lifting the vet center’s concrete walls into place. The crane – 55 feet long and 30 feet wide with a boom length of 150 feet – requires a specially trained and certified two-person crew. The largest concrete wall is around 20 feet tall, 40 feet wide and 8 inches thick, and weighs 45,000 pounds – almost four times as much as the zoo’s famous Asian elephant Packy!