Calgary Zoo: Land of Lemurs

Lemurs are only found on the island of Madagascar, and their population is quickly declining. The Calgary Zoo was eager to build a new world-class exhibit to accommodate three species of lemurs. This conservation effort perfectly aligned with the Calgary Zoo’s master plan, “Inspiring Change,” which is used to guide the zoo’s direction for the next 20 years. Williams Engineering (WE) provided civil, structural, mechanical and electrical consulting engineering services, which included pre-design, schematic design and detailed design through to construction completion. Our design had to consider many factors to ensure the well-being of the lemurs. The exhibit was designed to extend from a new indoor facility to an outdoor habitat for the summer months.

All electrical apparatus in the lemur exhibit needed to be out of reach of the lemurs and waterproof, as there are trees and vegetation in the exhibit. Our team achieved this by ensuring all fixtures were placed up high or in T-bar ceilings. We worked closely with the zoo exhibit specialty consultant to achieve the lighting output required in the space. All lighting was placed on the generator panel to ensure the lemurs would have consistent lighting even in an emergency. Outside the exhibit, our team provided sufficient lighting around the boardwalks and paths, along with power for a speaker system that the zoo will use to do presentations. Receptacles were also placed in huts within the exhibit to provide comfortable heat for the lemurs. Exterior lighting was designed to be blended into the environment.

Our civil team designed an infiltration trench or soaker pit to manage stormwater runoffs to help manage storm events. Due to space constraints and the landscaped area, our team had to expand the pit underneath gravel walkways. Permeable pipes were used for the distribution of underground infiltrated water between the different pit “pockets.” The landscaped area of the exhibit included a moat that was also utilized for stormwater management purposes. The landscape architect allowed us to use up to 100mm depth above normal water Level to store stormwater. In the event that the moat reached its maximum elevation, the excess would be discharged to the soaker pit through a weir. In addition to the specific habitat requirements, the design team had to work closely with various other contractors and consultants working concurrently at the zoo. After the devastating Calgary flood of 2013, a flood berm was installed around the entire perimeter of St. George’s Island. The Lemur exhibit is located on a 5,400-square-meter plot of land right up next to the berm. It was critical to design and construct infrastructure that would mitigate any future flood risk.

The zoo was also open to the public in the surrounding area of the exhibit for the duration of the project, which required precise planning and scheduling in order to limit disruption. The lemurs arrived on June 1st, 2017, and the Land of Lemurs exhibit had its grand opening on July 5th, 2017, which proved to be a great success!