Toledo Zoo Aquarium Renovation

The historical Aquarium building was built under the Works Progress Administration in 1939. The Toledo Zoo’s request was to preserve the exterior of the building while completely overhauling the interior during the $25.5 million three year construction project.


Mechanically Speaking

Updating the mechanical systems provided several unique design challenges. The new exhibits increase the water volume from 46,000 gallons to 178,000 gallons with minimal impact to building operating costs. With the exhibit water increasing four fold, so did the requirements for aquatic life support and building utility systems. Space was at a premium and JDRM worked closely with the entire design team to coordinate installation of all the additional systems without expanding the building structure or changing the building appearance.

Building operating issues were addressed through the utilization of high efficiency condensing boilers heating the building and providing exhibit heating requirements. Ground source heat pumps were implemented for building HVAC and the preheating of life support water requirements. New, enlarged water service and fire protection was installed. The entire sanitary service was redesigned.  A filter blowdown tank was added to meter and control discharge to the sewer system so not exceed the capacity of the existing sewer mains.

Electrical Highlights

The entire Zoo complex power supply was reviewed and power correction capacitors were added to improve overall power utilization.  A pad mounted switch was installed so the 277/480V service and 120/208V service providing power to the Aquarium could be isolated from the existing 12,470V loop.  Isolation transformers were used to minimize harmonics and to increase the building’s power factor.  PLC Controls were added to minimize the generator kW required and to maximize the usage of the existing generator.

Audio Visual Design

Visitor engagement in the exhibits is enhanced through several audiovisual systems which JDRM designed. Video monitors replace traditional static signs at each exhibit/tank and the dynamic information possibilities improve visitor experience. An extensive multi-zone audio system allows different background audio in each area of the aquarium to set the mood and theme of individual exhibit areas. In addition to background audio, wireless microphones may be utilized throughout the aquarium. The microphones allow voice amplification for presenters. At the dive tank, the system integrates the diver microphone system so guests may ask and receive answers to questions while the diver is underwater.

Special event areas including Gallery 107 and the Captains Room are equipped with JDRM designed audio visual control systems and display equipment for use during receptions, meetings, classes, and other community engagement opportunities.

Communication is Key

In the “back of house” the aquarium serves as a communications hub for several Zoo structures in the area via fiber and copper backbone cabling. To enhance redundancy, the fiber cabling serving the aquarium is in a ring configuration. Paging and intercom is provided for both “back of house” and guest areas. Wireless LAN is also provided in the aquarium.


Build Ohio 2015 – Associated General Contractors of Ohio – Rudolph/Libbe Construction Managers

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