Sustainability improvements

A green zoo begins with blue water. Learn how the zoo is building its master plan around water and energy improvements that will make the new zoo a model of sustainable conservation.

Water and energy savings measures

Across the zoo campus, staff and designers are examining everything the zoo does to determine if it is possible to reduce water and energy consumption, reuse water and many materials around the zoo, reduce waste, buy locally and from green sources and recycle everything.

As the zoo plans new exhibits, designers are exploring the role of water and energy exchanges between them. Can heating and cooling be shared? Can rainwater from the roof be used to hose down exhibits? Can the zoo produce energy from animal waste? They are also exploring reuse of stormwater from the parking lot, and creating significant stormwater storage for use during the July to September dry season.

A small building at the north end of the parking lot, completed in March, houses a pressure-reducing backflow prevention assembly, a fancy term for a device that keeps harvested rainwater from mixing with city tap water. This important addition to the zoo's plumbing will allow the capture and reuse of rainwater throughout the zoo.

Most of the zoo's infrastructure dates back to the 1950s and '60s. The current water system discharges stormwater into Portland's sanitary system, contributing to downstream water degradation. The city now requires new development to separate stormwater runoff from the sanitary sewer systems.

Rebuilding the zoo's water-distribution system will reduce water usage. As part of this system overhaul, water loss from aging infrastructure will be reduced, drainage systems will be replumbed and central plant piping will be installed. On-site wastewater management will help harvest nutrients from wastewater and water-storage tanks will capture rain for reuse.

With its south facing location, the zoo is a natural for capturing solar energy. Across the zoo as new buildings are planned, staff and designers are upgrading plumbing, electrical wiring and data lines, and planning ahead for future needs. They are investigating new building materials from sustainable sources and paving materials that are porous.

Buildings will be designed to use natural ventilation and light and capture solar warmth.