With two primary exhibits housed within a 17,000-square-foot building, the Kansas City Zoo’s new Helzberg Penguin Plaza is designed to provide an environment ideal for a variety of penguin species. The exhibits—a 100,000-gallon cold-water exhibit housing King, Gentoo, and Southern Rockhopper penguins, and a more temperate indoor-outdoor exhibit housing Humboldt penguins—are combined with three aquaria (ranging in size from 1,200 to 3,000 gallons) that contain schooling fish, moon jellyfish, and coral reef.

The $15 million project was made possible in part by Kansas City real estate firm Newmark Grubb Zimmer, which served as the owner’s development manager for the project and helped raise funds to support it.

Certified LEED Gold, the building is 28 percent more energy efficient than the LEED baseline, says Michael Gillaspie, director of sustainability for Newmark Grubb Zimmer, which also oversaw another project—a nearby penguin-themed eatery, the Tuxedo Grill—which is seeking at minimum LEED  Silver certification.

In addition to serving as the owner’s development manager for the penguin exhibit, Newmark Grubb Zimmer supported the exhibit with a generous donation from its annual Zimmer Cares initiative. Each year, the initiative selects a philanthropic organization to support and involves employees in the planning of events to raise money and awareness for the causes.

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A portion of the building’s energy load is provided by a solar array. The renewable energy is only about 1.5 percent of the total, but it is the equivalent of the lighting required for the cold penguin exhibit. Photo: Alistair Tutton Photography


Fluorescent and LED lighting is a key part of the Helzberg Penguin Plaza’s energy efficiency, as lighting is designed to imitate an Antarctic environment—on 24 hours a day in the height of Kansas City’s winter and dimmed 24 hours a day in the height of summer. Photo: Alistair Tutton Photography


An energy efficient pumping system by WhisperFlo and Fybroc helped the exhibit achieve nine LEED energy credits. Photo: Alistair Tutton Photography


An innovative multi-mode exhaust ventilation system helps remove unpleasant odors. Trane chillers and air handlers with both airside and waterside economizers provide highly efficient cooling for the building and penguin environments. Photo: Alistair Tutton Photography


Kids can continue their explorations at the adjacent Tuxedo Grill, which uses drought-tolerant landscaping and water-efficient equipment and fixtures in the public toilets and commercial kitchen to operate 30% more water efficient than a comparable building. Photo: Alistair Tutton Photography