Tropical forests are hard to find in the land of cornfields thus our urban jungle in Indianapolis is pretty far removed from the Indonesian forests that are home to orangutans. But several unique features of the International Orangutan Center will have its orangutan residents feeling right at home. One of those features is a rain absorbing green roof.
While completing this world-renowned project, the Zoo is conscious of the environment. One of the ways this exhibit will be eco-friendly is through the green roof. A green roof is an eco-friendly roof which helps save energy and prevents storm water damage. The Zoo has teamed up with the Indianapolis-based architecture firm, Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, for the project. The design of the green roof was done by Dan Overbey, Director of Sustainable Design. The orangutans will have what is called an extensive or thin green roof about four inches thick. The plants will consist mainly of sedums which are relatively small, flowering, succulent plants. Overbey explains that sedums are used because they hold moisture, they only grow a few inches tall so don’t require mowing, and they don’t pose a fire hazard like native grasses.
Because sedums hold moisture, they are great for accepting stormwater. The green roof, in combination with an underground tank, will collect a high percentage of the exhibit’s stormwater runoff. This helps us protect our area waterways. Did you know that an average of 7.8 billion gallons of sewage overflow from the Indianapolis area makes its way into surrounding creeks and rivers every year? That's enough to fill the Indianapolis Zoo's Dolphin pools almost 400 times! Sewage overflow runs a huge risk for public health. Specifically, E. coli and other infectious diseases can be found in raw sewage. And the green roof plants are a great way to help alleviate pollution.
The green roof will protect and extend the life of the roof system, ultimately building a life-long home for the orangutans. Overbey says, “The diversity of the plants and their changes throughout the seasons will have an inherent beauty and raise awareness about the life of natural systems which is at the core of what the Zoo is about.” The purpose of the International Orangutan Center is to educate people about conservation and if our orangutans can teach Indianapolis to care about their environment too, than we have really succeeded.
In May 2014, Indianapolis Zoo guests will be invited to see the best orangutan exhibit in the world! The International Orangutan Center is just past its half way mark for construction and our seven orangutans are expected to move into their new homes in late 2013.