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Trails of Africa at the Birmingham Zoo

Birmingham, Alabama

Creative Budget Management to Create a Home for African Wildlife

The Trails of Africa exhibit at the Birmingham Zoo transformed a 14-acre patch of the Deep South into an African savanna. The exhibit features rhinos, giraffes, zebras and a herd of six African bull elephants. To make such an expansive project fit within the zoo’s budget, HPM broke it into three packages. By separating grading from construction of the pachyderm lair and dining pavilion and including the mud wallows as part of the filtration system, HPM had greater control over the budget and was able to give the zoo — and the rhinos, giraffes, zebras and elephants — an exhibit they could be proud of.

A Creative Solution to an Elephantine Problem

Listening to and learning from the client is an essential part of any project, but it becomes even more so when dealing with something the size of an elephant. When one of the curators pointed out a problem with the planned elephant loading dock, HPM’s team knew changes had to be made. Unfortunately, the requested changes would be costly. HPM’s team worked with the zoo director and the curator, added the benefit of their own experience on non-elephant projects, and devised an elephant delivery system — HPM’s only one to date — that suited the zoo’s needs without breaking the budget.

Project Details

$15.5 million project
14-acre mixed-species wildlife exhibit
3.3-acre habitat
Watering holes, mud wallows and holding facilities
Elephant care and observation areas
Restaurant and dining pavilion
2011 CMAA Project Achievement Award


The Birmingham Zoo


CLR Design

HPM Services

Program Management