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Cincinnati Zoo – Exhibits

For more than 15 years, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has trusted IBI Group’s surveyors and engineers to provide a range of civil, site, water, exhibits and surveying expertise on several additions and upgrades to their world-class exhibits including Hippo Cove, Painted Dog, Cat Canyon and Africa Savannah. Focusing on the mission of the Zoo, all projects are designed to be LEED Certified, with significant sustainable elements. IBI Group is part of the team that created the 2025 master plan, with more than $150M in capital expenditures to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Zoo.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Cincinnati, OH
Platinum, Hippo Cove LEED
Gold, Cat Canyon LEED
Ongoing Status

IBI Group has become a trusted service provider for many projects that have happened in and around the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. As the second oldest zoo in America, Cincinnati Zoo’s exhibits are world-famous, focused on sustainability, and have been inspiring the public with the wonders of nature since 1875.

Africa Savannah
IBI Group provided civil engineering and surveying on this multi-year, multi-phase project which included a new cheetah run and area, enlarged giraffe yard, new lion area, hoof stock area and restaurant. We led the design of a major sustainable storm water initiative, including a green roof, pervious pavers, bio retention and storm water capture and re-use.

The storm water capture system successfully captures excess rainwater from 17 acres, directs the water to a storage tank under the hoof stock yard, treats the water and re-uses it in the polar bear and seal exhibits, lion moat and for irrigation. The project included the replacement of a water and sanitary sewer, complex retaining walls and moats, and site grading that ensured the best possible site lines and ADA conformance. Our team worked closely with the Zoo horticultural staff to develop and engineer specific hoof stock soil mixes to handle the wear and tear of the animals, while sustaining effective vegetation.

Cat Canyon
IBI Group was retained for Phase I & II of the redevelopment of this LEED Gold-certified exhibit. Phase I included a complete overhaul of the main Night Hunters building to enhance the exhibit experience and to welcome additional animals

Phase II of the project was the addition of an exhibit housing two White Tigers, two Malayan Tigers and two Snow Leopards. The area includes a new accessible walking path, 18-ft tall concrete earth retaining structures, underground animal holding areas, and separate entry/exit locations to reduce visitor congestion. The White Tiger area features a 20-ft tall waterfall that pumps 500 gallons of water per minute into an eight-foot-diameter pool. Many of these exhibits are open air or bring cats to warm rocks near inch-thick glass to put the Zoo’s visitors face-to-face with big cats.

Hippo Cove – Home of the Famous Fiona!
IBI also completed the site development, surveying, civil engineering, and storm water management for Hippo Cove, home of the famous photo-bomber Fiona and the rest of the Nile Hippos. Keeping the hippo pool full and clean through a highly water-efficient process, the exhibit is also designed to ensure the safety of the deadliest animal in the world. The main viewing glass is built to withstand the 4500psi of pressure from a 16,000-gallon outdoor pool and the impact from a hippo going 10 mph. The water also circulates through a system that travels 1800 gallons per minute (7.5x faster than a fire hose).

Painted Dog
Home to a pack of over 20 painted dogs, and arguably the most attractive exhibit at the Zoo, Painted Dog sits atop an engineering marvel. Beneath its tall trees and grass is a massive storage facility that captures, filters and reuses storm water run-off. The irrigation that keeps this exhibit green when water is needed comes from the rain fall.

There is also a 400,000-gallon rain tank – the size of a football field – underneath Painted Dog Valley and the rest of the Africa exhibit. Our design also incorporates efficient geothermal heat pumps, LED lights and more than two hundred solar panels next to the exhibit.

Sound interesting? That’s only the half of it! Learn about the additional work we provided on the Zoo’s grounds and exterior buildings.

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Excellence Award


Cat Canyon,
By ABC Excellence in Construction

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Best Project of 2012

Cat Canyon,
By ENR Midwest

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Living Building Challenge (LBC) petal certification


Painted Dog,
By International Living Future Institute

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