Kansas (913) 281-7200 || Oklahoma (918) 901-9332

In any large space, it’s critical to have a well-functioning HVAC system to support proper airflow and temperature control. However, the HVAC challenges for an office or commercial building pale in comparison to the HVAC needs of a zoo. Zoos receive thousands of visitors who are looking to relax and enjoy themselves, and Zoos have to accommodate the needs of different types of animals.

The animals in a zoo may come from different parts of the world and can include birds in the air, animals on the ground, animals in the water, and animals requiring very different climatic conditions.

All these different conditions need to be considered, while also considering energy costs and the environmental impacts of an HVAC system. The Kansas City Zoo, which is home to a wide variety of different species, works hard to ensure all animals have comfortable living conditions and aims to reduce energy use as part of its many conservation programs.

Tackling the Challenge

The Kansas City Zoo was founded in 1909 and has served the community and animals for over a century. At its origin, the zoo housed four lions, three monkeys, a wolf, a fox, a coyote, a badger, a lynx, an eagle, and a few other birds. Today, the zoo is home to more than 1,700 animals representing 200 different species. As you can imagine, it’s critical to preserve and provide an authentic environment for each of these species. 

While the Kansas City Zoo had an HVAC system that was state-of-the-art (at the time), all equipment requires maintenance to function for a long time, and eventually, upgrades are in order. Design Mechanical, Inc. (DMI) was called upon to upgrade the HVAC systems in three different areas of the premises.

1. The auditorium, administrative, and education resources building. This structure was using an older building automation system that was a composite of multiple HVAC operating programs. The system was in need of newer controls to maintain an even temperature throughout the building.

DMI designed and installed a new building automation system that controlled all of the building’s mechanical and electrical utilities, including the HVAC system. This system was a state-of-the-art Johnson JCI Facility Explorer System, which evaluates, analyzes and optimizes the building’s indoor environment.

The features of this system included easy commissioning and programming, multiple networking communications, seamless data sharing across the building network, remote access, and an easy-to-see, easy-to-use graphic interface. To date, the new system has resulted in energy savings of 30-40 percent each month, impressive results for a non-profit entity that watches its expenses carefully.

One of the major challenges for DMI was to disassemble and remove an old 400-ton system operating in a single space twenty-four hours a day. It was replaced with four separate systems serving several areas and running only when needed.

2. The orangutan exhibit. This exhibit area required some special attention because the orangutans housed there need their habitat to be extra warm in the winter months. The previous HVAC system serving that habitat had pressurization issues that resulted from too much outside air being brought into the exhibit area.

Care for the animals is the number one priority for the Kansas City Zoo, and as a result, keeping their habitat at the proper temperature with this older system led to high energy costs.

DMI resolved the issues by installing variable frequency drives on the existing air handling units. They also installed pressure sensors to keep the air pressure regulated in the building. A KW meter was installed to measure the electrical usage in the facility so that energy consumption could be monitored and adjusted as necessary. Positive energy savings resulted during the winter as well as ongoing in the summer months.

DMI was in for a treat during this project. Rufus, the oldest male orangutan in the exhibit, kept a watchful eye on our technician addressing the system. At one point, Rufus wanted to show off his skills by drinking some water and spitting it on our technician through the mesh! That certainly doesn’t happen every day.

3. The Tropics exhibit. This exhibit required special care and attention since it housed tropical birds, primates, small animals, and stingrays that needed a warmer environment in the winter months. The building was experiencing temperature fluctuations throughout the facility caused by outside air.

Like the solution provided for the orangutan exhibit, DMI resolved the issues by installing pressure sensors to keep the air pressure regulated in the building, along with a KW meter.

The new system delivered the ability for the building to be on a night setback which delivered energy savings of over 60%(!) throughout the year. The system was installed with no downtime by staging various system replacements, thus allowing the temperature to be kept at the required 76 degrees. 

DMI was honored and proud to work with the Kansas City Zoo to achieve these excellent energy and operating results for such a great organization and public cause. Summertime is here, so now is the perfect time to plan your next visit to the Kansas City Zoo!