Calgary Zoo Panda Passage

Making a home for pandas

It’s Panda-monium

In February 2012, the Canadian government and the government of the People’s Republic of China sponsored an agreement to bring two endangered giant pandas to Canada. With the giant pandas making their way to their new home, the zoo needed to build a beautiful, sustainable place to live.

Giant pandas have a specific habitat in China, and part of caring for this important ambassador species at the zoo is ensuring the bears had a home that suits their needs.

Their goal was to transform the existing animal building (65,132 sq ft), which had been in use at the zoo for over 50 years as an elephant enclosure and later a rhino enclosure. The aim was to use sustainable materials in the most efficient way possible all within a budget of $14.4 million CAD.

Using Wood

As a conservation society, it was imperative that all new wood purchased for this renovation project was FSC certified.

Designed by Zeidler Architecture and constructed by PCL construction, the new animal habitat includes 431 square meters in two indoor habitats using 35,000 kg of FSC-certified wood.

However, one of the goals was to source locally (within 500 km of the site) which made it challenging to find FSC-certified products. When no local FSC-COC certified manufacturer of wooden roof trusses was found, the general contractor hand-built the trusses onsite using only FSC lumber to ensure the correct wood was used.

Raw bamboo was a prominent design feature due to its cultural, biophilic, and educational relevance to the giant pandas. The project team undertook great efforts to find FSC-certified raw bamboo poles, going so far as to contact any companies listed on the FSC’s database who were associated with bamboo. No results were found, so the team was permitted to use non-FSC bamboo as required.

“Habitat destruction remains one of the biggest threats to pandas in the wild, much in the same way that the boreal forests and evergreen trees are a concern for wildlife in Canada. As a conservation organization, the Calgary Zoo is committed to using resources in the most efficient way possible and inspiring others by living our conservation philosophy through all that we do,” says Clément Lanthier, President & CEO, Calgary Zoo.

The Result

Panda Passage is part of the Calgary Zoo’s commitment wildlife conservation with a focus on sustainability and adaptability and has since received the Living Building Challenge’s Petal Certification, making it one of the most advanced habitats in the world, as well as the first project to receive the designation in Alberta.

Zeidler Architecture

PCL construction,



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