The Houston Zoo Gorilla Exhibit

Best Project

General Contractor WS Bellows Construction Corp.
Owner The Houston Zoo
Lead Design The Portico Group
Structural MLA Engineering
Civil Walter P Moore
MEP Alvine & Associates
Sitework/Utilities Slack & Co. Contracting Inc.

The African Gorilla Exhibit brings gorillas back to the Houston Zoo after a 10-year absence. Spanning approximately two acres, the exhibit consists of three buildings, a viewing boardwalk, a containment and security moat and a waterfall that cascades from one of the buildings into a 10-ft-deep stream and over a 20-ft hill.

Phase 1 built the moat and developed the berm that sets the stage for a jungle-like experience, while Phase 2 fine-graded the site to produce a natural-looking exhibit.

Creating the habitat required intricate grading, excavation and backfill operations, while the crews building the moat and the berm excavated nearly 1,000 truckloads of spoils and another 600 truckloads of backfill material. Working on a congested site with a single access point required constant coordination among the entire project team.

The team placed fill dirt behind the shotcrete wall that forms the portion of the waterfall running from the gorilla building into the river. That meant that the waterfall couldn’t be built until the gorilla building and the stream were finished, so the contractor had to work in close quarters alongside the shotcrete contractor to complete the task.

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