Zoo's New Education Center Earns 'Top Project' Awards

For the second year in a row, the Oregon Zoo earned three major honors at the Daily Journal of Commerce's annual TopProjects ceremony, held at the Oregon Convention Center yesterday.

The DJC TopProjects program, now in its 22nd year, honors outstanding building and construction projects in Oregon and Southwest Washington, selected by a panel of industry leaders in architecture, construction and engineering.

The zoo's new Education Center — designed to inspire young minds and serve as a regional hub for conservation — won the Energy Trust of Oregon's High Performance Building Award for new construction, as well as third-place honors for public projects and the People's Choice Award for public projects, voted on in real time by event attendees.

"It's deeply gratifying to be honored like this two years in a row," said Heidi Rahn, bond program director. "Our community created something truly special when it passed the zoo bond measure in 2008. Children are the key to our future, and the Oregon Zoo Education Center was designed to inspire generations of young conservationists to take action on behalf of wildlife."

The Education Center was the fifth of eight major projects made possible by the community-supported bond measure promoting animal welfare, education and sustainability. The first of these improvements — the zoo's veterinary medical center — was also a TopProjects winner, taking first-place honors for public buildings in 2012. And last year, Elephant Lands was named 2016 Project of the Year while also earning the top award for public projects and runner-up honors for the People's Choice Award.

With five of the bond-funded upgrades now complete, the final three projects — improved habitats for primates, rhinos and polar bears — will be managed as a single construction project to save costs and increase efficiency.

The Education Center provides a welcoming entry and staging area for the thousands of children who participate in zoo camps and classes each year, and expands the zoo's conservation education programs and activities through partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, National Wildlife Federation, the Intertwine Alliance, Portland Audubon and more.

The center's many earth-friendly design features — including more than 700 solar panels, salvaged building materials, bird-friendly glass and a rain-harvest system —model sustainability measures and make the facility itself a teaching tool. The zoo is applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for the new center, the highest rating from the Green Building Council. To learn more, visit oregonzoo.org/edcenter.

"We're very grateful to our design and construction partners, who helped make this vision a reality," Rahn said. "Especially our general contractor, Fortis Construction, and our design team led by Opsis Architecture, and including Formations, Jones & Jones Landscape Architects, Catena Consulting Engineers, KPFF Consulting Engineers and PAE Consulting Engineers."

(originally published at OregonZoo.org)

New Exhibits Open at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

On Friday December 2, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park hosted a grand opening event debuting new exhibits at the visitor center and museum. About 65 members of the Skagway, Alaska community explored and gave rave reviews of the new exhibits. The grand opening marks the conclusion of a year­long series of events commemorating the National Park Service Centennial at the park.
After three years and a $900,000 contract with Formations Inc. of Portland, OR, the NPS Visitor Center and Museum now feature interactive and accessible exhibits. Visitors can smell sourdough and eulachon oil, step into a muddy boot print, “raft” down the Yukon River, and spin a game­show style wheel to see if they strike it rich…or die. “It’s been a long process and we’re really proud of the final result,” says education specialist Jason Verhaeghe. “These exhibits tell the story of the gold rush by following five real characters, helping visitors feel like they’re on a journey themselves.”
In addition to being fun and tactile, the new exhibits are now legally accessible. There is ample room for wheelchairs to maneuver and text is low and large enough for kids and seated visitors to read. Selected text is duplicated in braille and there will be an audio description of the exhibit to aid visitors who are visually impaired by summer of 2017. Large, colorful graphics convey the main concepts and emotions of the gold rush even to visitors who don’t read English fluently.