THE CHALLENGE – CREATE THE EXTREMES OF A RAINFOREST WITHIN ONE ENCLOSURE
The Buffalo Zoo in upstate New York gained funding to add an exhibit that would mimic the conditions of a small slice of rainforest in South America. With highly contrasting climate conditions, the South American Tropical Rain Forest installation posed a challenge to the architectural design and zoo administration team.
In order to sustain plant and animal life, the transmission of ultraviolet rays into the space was key. Zoo keepers wanted to maintain normal development levels of Vitamin D, so that special dietary supplements wouldn’t be necessary.
THE SOLUTION – A SOARING CANOPY
To support the required microclimates, the architects hit on the idea of cladding the roof with a transparent ETFE pneumatic cushion system supported by structural steel.
The transparency of the triple layer ETFE cushion system is equal to a glass system, so sunlight can penetrate the enclosure. ETFE does not restrict UV light transfer; nor does it break down from UV exposure. Also, ETFE is 1/100 the weight of glass, so there’s less supporting structure to obstruct visitors’ views.
To manage solar gain achieved by the cushion system’s transparency, Structurflex designed and supplied a mechanical louver system that opens up 12 cushions at the ridge to allow passive ventilation.
ETFE TRIPLE LAYER ARCHITECTURE
COMPLETED IN 2008
Buffalo, New York, USA
1,021M2 / 11,000FT2
ETFE - TRIPLE LAYER CUSHION SYSTEM
ARCHITECT Foit Albert & Associates / Buffalo Zoo
South American rainforest recreated for North American zoo
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