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Kansas City Zoo’s new aquarium celebrates LEED Certification

You can now visit the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium’s newest attraction without reservations.

The long-awaited Sobela Ocean Aquarium at the Kansas City Zoo and Aquarium features nearly 8,000 animals with over 200 species, and is also certified for sustainability.

The aquarium achieved a LEED Silver certification with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and is the newest of many LEED certified buildings at the zoo.

The project met sustainability benchmarks for energy efficiency, water conservation, material selection, waste reduction, and more to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) certification.

“The building and exhibits showcase the beautiful variety found in the world’s oceans and weaves the importance of ocean and climate health throughout,” said Georgia Eckett, conservation manager at the Kansas City Zoo and Aquarium.

“As a conservation institution the zoo was dedicated to creating a great exhibit while being aware of our environmental impact and wanted to seize the opportunity to put in place infrastructure that would lessen our demand for resources.”

The sustainable features

Here are some of the impressive sustainable features the 650,000-gallon aquarium achieved.

  • Construction and Demolition Management: More than 80% of construction materials such as metal, cardboard, and lumber were diverted from the landfill.
  • Energy and Atmosphere: The building will see an 18% reduction in energy usage compared to a baseline building through LED lighting and other energy-efficient technologies. When possible, drum filters are utilized over sand filters to reduce the amount of electricity needed to pump water.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality: Building materials were selected with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) such as paint, sealants, and adhesives.
  • Innovation: Window fritting was applied to the glass throughout the aquarium to make the building visible to birds, reducing injury and mortality from in-flight collisions with the building.
  • Materials and Resources: A life-cycle assessment was performed, assessing the project from cradle to grave with the goal of reducing the project’s impact on the environment over the course of its life.
  • Sustainable Sites: The building features reflective roofing and a high percentage of vegetation covering that reduce the heat island effect. Also, light pollution was reduced with lighting focused downward and turned off after hours to increase night sky access and improve nighttime visibility to help reduce the consequences of development for wildlife.
  • Water Efficiency: Water-saving fixtures like sinks and toilets account for a 25% reduction compared to fixtures typically used. In addition, the outdoor landscaping was designed to require little additional water.

“Congratulations to the Kansas City Zoo and Aquarium leadership staff and the entire project team for their outstanding commitment to create a more sustainable, a healthier, and energy-efficient built environment,” said Julie Peterson, a director at the USGBC.

“The zoo and aquarium leadership staff were instrumental in making sure that they were ‘walking the talk’ and this LEED Silver certification is evidence of that.”

Expanding its conservation efforts

Not only was the building designed with conservation in mind (such as with its windows with anti-collision bird deterrents to prevent bird strikes), the Kansas City Zoo and Aquarium has also expanded its education and conservation efforts.

Guests can observe the live coral tank where the zoo is actively cultivating coral on-site to help ensure the conservation of endangered species of corals.

It is also partnering with rescue centers and the aquarium features a pair of sea otters that were rescued off the coast of California.

Working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, the zoo also educates about seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that are healthier for ocean animal welfare and the environment.

“This new aquatic exhibit exemplifies the zoo’s mission ‘by connecting all people to each other and the natural world to promote understanding, appreciation, and conservation,’” said Eckett. “Buildings like the aquarium serve as an example of how industry, innovation and conservation can intersect and as a result inspire visitors to protect the world’s biodiversity.”

Now open with zoo admissions

You can now visit the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium’s newest attraction without reservations. The zoo is open Monday – Sunday from 9:30 am – 4 pm.

To buy tickets, visit

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