George the Rhino never was going to fit in the Henry Vilas Zoo’s old 224-square-foot animal health center.
He probably shouldn’t set foot inside the new one either, although at 6,000 square feet, it certainly could offer the longtime resident room to roam.
“We can now bring in animals for quarantine,” said Ronda Schwetz, director of the 28-acre zoo. “Our two giraffes won’t fit, and we probably shouldn’t bring George in. But, literally, we could bring in dozens of animal.
“At one point, we had a scorpion and a snake and rats and birds and even an aardvark. We never would have been able to do that before.”
And Schwetz’s reaction to the new facility?
“Ecstatic is probably not too strong of a term,” she said. “It’s dramatically different.”
That’s because the new center not only allows zoo staff members to do on-site treatment and surgeries – in full view of adoring crowds of elementary school students, thanks to a new viewing window – but it also was designed with a system of pulleys, doors and chutes just for animal holding.
“In addition,” explained Mike Dillis, vice president of J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., which managed construction, “extremely durable wall board and stainless steel casework (were) carefully coordinated with the medical gas systems and specialty lighting in these rooms.”
That includes daylight, which filters into the center between the structural precast ceiling, cages, cabling, lighting fixtures, HVAC and roof screening, which meant coordinating a host of subcontractors and engineers.
“In the end, the result was well worth the extra effort,” Dillis said. “The team was able to provide animals with natural lighting in what normally would have been a space illuminated by only artificially light.”
The center also includes a pharmacy, laboratory and isolation room, as well as space for educational programs and intensive care – all covered by an Energy Star-compliant roof. In fact, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines were used for much of the building, including low-emissivity windows, high-efficiency lighting systems and low VOC paints.
There’s also a rain garden and a pseudo-pond, created with colored ceramic tiles imprinted with the names of donors, who paid for 100 percent of the $2.3 million project, including an estimated $900,000 raised at two gala events.
“There was no county money,” Schwetz said.
And, thanks to Fuji, the 103-year-old zoo also has a new portable, wi-fi-enabled radiograph machine, worth an estimated $100,000, which means George the Rhino, and those giraffes, can finally get some x-rays — outside.
Project size: 6,000 square feet
Project cost: $2.3 million
Start date: Oct. 1, 2012
Completion date: May 31, 2013
Submitting company: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., Madison
Construction manager: J.H. Findorff
Architect: WDM Architects, Wichita, Kan.
Engineers: MKEC Engineering Consultants Inc., Wichita (structural); Alvine Engineering, Omaha (mechanical, electrical, plumbing); MSA Professional Services Inc., Madison (civil)
Owner: Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison
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