Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo Named ‘Best Project’ by ENR Midwest


Sanford, FL – September 20, 2016 – The Polk Penguin Conservation Center (PPPC) at the Detroit Zoo, constructed by the DeMaria/Wharton-Smith joint venture, has won ‘Best Project’ in the Sports/Entertainment category of ENR Midwest’s Regional Best Projects. The project team will be honored at the ENR Midwest Best Project Awards event November 30, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Inspired by the legendary Antarctic expeditions of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center is the largest penguin habitat in the world and is home to more than 80 penguins of four species – gentoo, macaroni, rockhopper, and king, and capable of housing up to 120. The building’s exterior resembles a tabular iceberg with a crevasse and 25-foot waterfall. Thousands of custom metal scales cover the exterior skin in a layered fashion that functions similar to the penguin’s coat of feathers providing a layer of circulating air separate from the building. Upon entry, visitors descend a series of ramps, surrounded by 4-D effects including arctic blasts, iceberg calving, waves, and snow.

One of the most dramatic features is a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area that allows visitors to watch as penguins explore their habitat and deep dive, something that is otherwise impossible to see, even in the wild. Two acrylic underwater tunnels weighing over 33,000 lbs were lowered into the structure by crane. The waterproof tunnels provide guests with views above and below as the birds dive and soar.

Measuring sustainable strategies was also important to the Zoo. An initiative to focus on the importance of water conservation guided the design and construction of the deep dive pool with a sophisticated treat and reuse water filtration system. Net-zero water goals were attained through the recirculation and treatment of the habitat and animal-management pools, wash-down systems, and exterior splash play area, and energy savings achieved through LED lighting, natural light, low VOC finishes, and using reclaimed wood.

ENR’s Regional Best Projects Awards program judges projects using five criteria: Overcoming Challenges and Teamwork, Safety, Innovation and Contribution to the Industry/Community, Construction Quality & Craftsmanship, and Function and Aesthetic Quality of the Design. Projects are evaluated by an independent jury of industry leaders in design and construction from each of ENR’s 10 regions.

To see more photos click here: Polk Penguin Conservation Center