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Savanna Hall awarded LEED gold

On the heels of the completion of the most transformative project in Zoo Atlanta history, both the Zambezi Elephant Center and the renovation of Savanna Hall have officially earned LEED Gold certification. Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program recognizes buildings across the world for design and construction geared toward conservation of resources and environmental health. The architect and contractor on both projects were Epsten Group and Winter Johnson Group, respectively.

“Zoo Atlanta is extremely proud to receive LEED Gold certification for the Zambezi Elephant Center and Savanna Hall. We are grateful to our design and construction partners on a collaboration that ensured that the Zoo continually meets the highest standards of environmental responsibility,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta. “Zoo Atlanta is first and foremost a conservation organization, with which comes a deep responsibility to lead by example.”

The Zambezi Elephant Center, which is the indoor component of the Zoo’s new African Savanna elephant complex, maximizes natural daylight for elephants and care team members alike through the installation of glass roll-up doors and a translucent Fiberglas clerestory. Together with efficient LED lighting, building mechanical systems, and life-support filtration systems for the adjacent habitat’s waterfalls and pools, Zambezi Elephant Center was able to achieve a 16.9% energy cost savings relative to the standard baseline building.

Savanna Hall is the newly restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama and is now a one-of-a-kind special events destination. By conserving 96% of the existing historic structure, the design and construction team was able to avoid many of the negative environmental impacts associated with construction of a brand-new facility, including an estimated 45% reduction in carbon emissions from manufacturing, transportation and installation of new materials. Through a mixture of strategies that also included building envelope improvements, installation of efficient LED lighting, and selection of efficient HVAC systems, energy cost is reduced by 25.8% relative to the standard baseline building, while selection and installation of low-flow and low-flush plumbing fixtures reduced anticipated potable water use by more than 36%.

The Zambezi Elephant Center and Savanna Hall are not the first Zoo Atlanta projects to achieve LEED Gold certification. The Zoo’s Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, opened in 2015, was the world’s first LEED Gold-certified amphibian and reptile complex.

The Zambezi Elephant Center and Savanna Hall are key elements of Zoo Atlanta’s Grand New View transformation, which also features new and significantly expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs, meerkats, and, new to the Zoo in May 2020, a southern white rhino. The final element of Grand New View, an enhanced entry plaza, was completed in summer 2020


Rachel Davis
Director of Communications
404.624.2812 – office
404.309.2238 – cell

Gavin Johnson
Public Relations and Communications Specialist
404.624.5980 – office

About Zoo Atlanta

A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education, and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include the all-new African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs, meerkats and rhinos, and Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the newly restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama. For more information, visit

About Epsten Group

Epsten Group has been a global leader in sustainable design, consulting, and commissioning services since 1991. Headquartered in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the firm seeks to help clients implement sustainable practices to achieve efficient, beautiful, and healthy building solutions. As the largest third-party certification firm for the United States Green Building Council, Epsten Group is recognized for keeping sustainability at the forefront of its operations while continuing to spread a global message of the green building movement. For more information, visit

About Winter Johnson Group

Winter Johnson Group, a joint venture, is comprised of Winter Construction, a privately owned and operated Atlanta-based construction management and general contracting company and Johnson Construction Services, a minority-owned contracting company in Atlanta. Winter Johnson Group provides construction and environmental services to clients in the hospitality, retail, government, education, corporate/office, religious, healthcare, historic restoration, industrial, and multifamily markets in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. For more information, visit


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