InsideIQ Building Automation Alliance members have expertise in applying innovative solutions to maintain and secure the built environment. These skills not only apply to commercial facilities that serve people, but also for buildings that are occupied by animals. InsideIQ is an international alliance of independent building automation contractors, and member firms are engaged in building automation system (BAS) and systems integration projects for zoo facilities and aquariums. And they are taking the same care to use the best solutions for the facility’s occupants — whether birds, fish, or exotic animals — as they would for buildings used exclusively by people.
North American members of InsideIQ are working in a variety of animal habitats. For example:
Zoo New England: Comprised of both the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, MA, Zoo New England relies on ENE Systems of Canton, MA to provide security integration, including intrusion alarm systems, panic and holdup alarm systems, video surveillance systems, ID Badging, and central alarm monitoring stations.
Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo: Control Services in Omaha, NE maintains the campus-wide enterprise network controlling building environmental conditions and exhibit Life Support Systems (LSS) at exhibits including both the world’s largest indoor tropical rainforest and indoor desert, a major aquarium, an indoor Antarctic penguin environment, administrative and visitor facilities, and an IMAX theater.
Minnesota Zoo: Located in Apple Valley, south of Minneapolis, the zoo relies on Uhl Company of Maple Grove, MN for the systems that control the HVAC for the visitors and for the animals on display. Exhibits include Russia’s Grizzly Coast, which features exhibits, viewing areas, and animal holding spaces housing grizzly bears, amur leopards, and otters.
Building Automation, It Can Be A Jungle
Zoological projects present distinct challenges regarding BAS operation. For example, in the indoor jungle at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, technicians from Control Services take advantage of high humidity outdoor conditions to drive the humidity inside the structure as high as possible. “This creates conditions similar to an actual rainforest, although this control technique is contrary to what would be used in normal commercial spaces,” said Chuck Kopocis, vice president, Control Services. “Many other challenges present themselves at the zoo, ranging from controlling specialized environments to concealing sensors within water pools, trees, and rocks while not exposing them to damage from animals or visitors.”
Integrators frequently face unusual complications while maintaining and updating systems in zoos. For example, when the Minnesota Zoo added a new African Penguin exhibit, Uhl had to ensure that water and air temperatures were within the penguin’s specific temperature tolerances. Jim Tichy, account manager for Uhl, remembers that when upgrading the LSS controls for the shark and coral reef aquarium exhibits they had to maintain proper exhibit water quality — including filtration, pump flow speeds, and ozone water treatment — while the animals and exhibits were still in use. “Working on a live system made it critical to coordinate heavily with the Zoo’s LSS staff so as to eliminate downtime and minimize complications,” said Tichy.
Of course, the conditions for the animals must always be taken into account. “Working with zoological exhibits, we have learned that it is often necessary to implement modifications to the original operating sequences,” said Kopocis with Control Services. “Once the animals inhabit the exhibit, things don’t always work out the way we anticipated, due to the inherent uniqueness of the application. In most cases, the flexibility of the programmable products we use at the zoo allows us to simply make programming modifications and avoid costly hardware changes.”
Zoos typically don’t want patrons or animals disturbed by work on the physical plant. “We try to keep loud noises, such as drilling and hammering, to a minimum and we do most of our work in public areas prior to zoo opening,” said John Doherty, sales engineer, ENE Systems. Making sure the animals and workers are safe is always a priority. There are strict protocols in place when working next to dangerous animals, according to Doherty. “We have to work closely with zoo keepers around the animals’ standard routines so as not to stress them out and to ensure everyone is working safely. We also carry a wireless panic button in animal holding areas in case of an emergency,” he said. “Finally, we have to make sure to clean up every piece of construction debris so no animal accidentally tries to eat a piece of wire, sheet rock, paper, or plastic.”
“InsideIQ member firms take the expertise they have gained from working in commercial facilities designed for humans and then apply best practices and innovative system solutions to meet the needs of virtually any kind of animal contained in a zoo, aquarium or other habitat,” said Scott Derby, president of the InsideIQ Building Automation Alliance and vice president of Buffalo, N.Y.-based SmartEdge. “This ensures that the safety and health of the animals while providing zoo visitors with a rewarding experience as well.”