Sustainable Penguin Exhibit Wins Design Award

Woodland Park Zoo’s Humboldt penguin exhibit, which includes energy efficient heating from Seattle City Light and a water-saving filtration system from Seattle Public Utilities, won a design excellence award from the Seattle Design Commission.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Humboldt penguin exhibit, which includes energy efficient heating from Seattle City Light and a water-saving filtration system from Seattle Public Utilities, won a design excellence award from the Seattle Design Commission.

The award, which was announced by Mayor Greg Nickels today, is a recognition of good design that is not only aesthetically pleasant but also accomplishes sustainable goals, social needs, provides a tangible benefit to the community and exemplifies visionary leadership for its execution.

“Working with Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Public Utilities to create a state-of-the-art habitat for the penguins while promoting energy efficiency has been a great experience for City Light,” Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “We hope this award-winning exhibit encourages other organizations and zoo visitors to make sustainable energy choices as well.”

Twenty Humboldt penguins started making the 17,000 square-foot exhibit their home in May. It features shoreline cliffs, viewable nesting burrows, rocky tide pools, crashing waves, and a beach, recreating the desert coast of Punta San Juan, Peru — home of the largest colony of wild Humboldt penguins.

Seattle City Light paid for an energy efficient ground-based geothermal heat pump that uses the Earth’s below-ground temperature to keep the exhibit’s water at a penguin-friendly 55 degrees year round. Seattle Public Utilities paid to install an innovative water filtration system.

Those features will save nearly 22,000 kilowatt-hours of energy and 3 million gallons of water per year. That’s the equivalent of heating five, new two-bedroom townhouses and saving 24 million pints of drinking water each year.

The exhibit is also designed to contain and recycle all stormwater runoff thereby preventing the pollution of natural water sources like Puget Sound.

“We are grateful to Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities for their support, which has allowed us to invest in sustainable technologies for the exhibit that not only help the environment and save money, but also serve as an inspiring, ‘green’ learning opportunity for our 1 million visitors annually,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO.

According to the zoo, 91 percent of visitors went through the penguin exhibit during their visit, making it the most-visited section of the zoo during the summer 2009 season. Among those who visited the exhibit, the majority said it was the high point of their visit.

This is the second notable award for the penguin exhibit. It also was awarded a special mention in Seattle Business magazine’s second annual Green Washington Awards in September for its design and the zoo’s overall commitment to green practices.

For more information about the exhibit, visit www.zoo.org/penguins .

Seattle City Light is the ninth largest public electric utility in the United States.  It has the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents.  City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

Seattle Public Utilities provides water, sewer, garbage and yard waste disposal and recycling services for the city of Seattle.

Woodland Park Zoo has been a cherished community resource and a unique urban oasis for more than 100 years. The zoo encompasses 92 acres and features more than 1,090 individual animals representing nearly 300 species.