Sustainable Polar Paradise for Ice-Loving Birds from Calgary Zoo

Starting with 2012, Calgary Zoo from Canada opened “Penguin Plunge”, a new exhibit designed exclusively for the native to the southern hemisphere, the penguins. Now visitors can meet four beautiful species of penguins, Humboldt, Gentoo, Rockhopper and Kings, and have a unique behind-the-scenes penguin experience.

Calgary Zoo commissioned DIALOG design company to design a year round penguin habitat, similar with their natural one, where visitors can interact with these fantastic aquatic, flightless birds who live almost exclusively in Antarctica, learn more about them, and leave both children and adults with a love of penguins, as well as the knowledge to do what they can to help them.


An average indoor temperature of 7 degrees (45 F) and a chilly air introduce you into a memorable experience where playful penguins perched on rocky outcroppings, are plunging into chilly water, popping out of holes in the ice and walking with their trademark waddle. DIALOG creates a really perfect setting for these species that ensures them the highest quality of care in order to meet their natural home comfort as possible. Islands,  glacial rock formations, naturalistic ice, flickering lights of the Aurora Australis are completed with a 32,000-gallon indoor pool,  a 9,200- gallon outdoor pool and a waterfall. The project aims to simulates Antartic winter, so the structure that houses the penguins is partly buried. Penguin Plunge also includes a retail area, food outlet and public washrooms to meet the needs of the increasing number of visitors to the zoo.


Thei habitat design and everything from materials, energy consumption system, to building massing, construction methods and water system were influenced by environmental considerations, the “Penguin Plunge” being made according to LEED® Gold standards. This means that penguins benefit from high quality water and air, a dedicated food preparation space and separate areas where they receive care from trained zookeepers and veterinarians. Moreover, an the lighting system that imitate that colorful southern lights and natural moonlight too, creating a genuine habitat.
DIALOG imagined a creative recycling method using waste energy from their habitat to heat the gift shop, which is cooled using thermal radiant slabs and a cooling tower.


Photos © DIALOG


Project details: 

Size : 29,062 sq. ft./ 2,700 sq. m.
Cost : $24.5 Million
Collaborators: The Portico Group, MWH Americas, EBA Engineering, RJC, MMM Group
LEED Registered: Gold
Completed: 2012
Client: Calgary Zoo


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