Water's Edge - A "Green" Building

The Water's Edge exhibit was designed not only as an ideal habitat for polar bears, sea otters, and sand tiger sharks, and with the idea of educating visitors about conserving the animals that live there, but also with the idea that the building itself would be a model "green" buildling.

The design allows for a low-impact energy use facility. The enhancement components include: partially below-grade walls, a green roof, sea water reclamation, air-to-air heat recovery on the air-handling units, variable speed pumping, low-flow flush toilets, and waterless urinals.

Water Systems and Environmentally Conscious Water Use
Water's Edge has three pools, one for each of its marine mammal residents, using more than 400,000 gallons of sea water. By using backwash, backwash recovery, and new water reservoir tanks, we reuse 46,000 gallons per week that would otherwise drain into the sewers.

To maintain optimum water quality for clarity and the health of the animals, we use an innovative approach to marine mammal filtration. We use the philosophy of aquarium filtration, in which we provide a venue for the colonizing of beneficial bacteria that break down organic waste products into much less harmful products such as nitrate. This process greatly reduces the need for oxidizing agents to maintain water clarity and healthy conditions for the animals.

The Green Roof
Perhaps most important of all is the green roof. Water's Edge boasts a green roof, which conserves water runoff and insulates the building, allowing us to moderate the thermostats by one-half a degree in winter and summer.
Pollinating insects also benefit from our green roof. A diverse selection of flora in an urban setting gives pollinators a broader choice of nutrition as well as a longer growing season.

Because green roofs are the future, we must find plants that will flourish on local rooftops so that horticulturalists have a viable palette from which to select plants. In fact, the Zoo is contributing to that palette in a trial garden with minimal soil and a native plant garden with deeper soil, an experimental role in which commercial nurseries are reluctant to invest.

Water's Edge Graphics and Interpretives
Water's Edge exhibits the animals along a replica of a coastal fishing village called Pier Town. Throughout the exhibit, informative graphics and interpretives educate our visitors about the lives of the resident species and the challenges they face in the wild, including panels that explain the pros and cons of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a Sustainable Seafood stand, and a Bright Future Energy Company façade. From these last two displays, visitors can take, respectively, a Seafood Watch card to consult while shopping or dining out and a One Degree of Change card that explains small changes everyone can make toward an improved global ecology.