Following a long line of ambitious developments completed with Hayes Higgins Partnership and Seattle-based zoo designers, Jones & Jones since 2001, including the Kaziranga trail, new Elephant House, and Gorilla Rainforest, Dublin Zoo decided to continue their ambitious long term plan for improvements in animal welfare within Dublin zoo with the design and construction of the exciting new 'Pacific Coast'. 


Name of Project: Pacific Coast Habitat, Dublin Zoo

Client: OPW


Dublin Zoo’s primary ethos is to ensure all animals under its care are located in habitats that have been created to ensure that the animals overall welfare is paramount. The Pacific Coast project was commissioned by Dublin Zoo to ensure that both the Californian Sealions and Chilean Flamingos would be provided with new habitats that will not only ensure both species welfare but allow them an environment in which to thrive. In late 2013 the Design Team was briefed by Dublin Zoo of the requirements for the project and charged with the task of having ground broken by the end of 2014 with a completion date in Spring 2015. In this short time Hayes Higgins Partnership co-ordinated not only the initial design of the project but brought the project through all key dates including planning, tender and construction stages on time and on budget.


The overall project can be broken down into 2 distinct areas:


Area 1 - Californian Sea lion Habitat

The construction of a new 400m2 salt water pool & habitat for the Californian sea lions, new sea lion holding, buildings with associated life support buildings and visitor viewing areas to the new habitat.This new sea lion habitat is twice the size of the existing habitat and allows visitors to Dublin Zoo to observe the sea lions swimming underwater.

Sealion Pool

The new 400m2 salt water pool was located on the site of an existing freshwater lake. Following dewatering and excavation to a depth of more than 3m below ground level a stepped reinforced concrete slab along with a system of rock anchors was installed to create a profiled salt water retaining pond. This rock anchor system and reinforced concrete slab were designed to ensure that when the pool was emptied to allow for cleaning that the pool itself would be able to resist the upward forces caused by the high water table in this area.  

Life Support System

As the newly constructed pool would form the new habitat for the Californian Sealions it was vital the salt water within the pool be maintained to the correct standard. The specialist system was design by Ted Maranda Consultants. The system involved the construction of a system of stainless steel pipework and filtration systems that would discharge its waste to a purpose built effluent collecting wetlands system.

Sealion Viewing

While Dublin Zoo’s primary aim is the care and welfare of the animals within the habitats, a large amount of importance is also placed on the views the general public have into each of the habitats. Views into the habitats are provided in two ways:

Above ground views throughout the habitat are available from the pool surround paths that are stepped to various levels

A new underwater viewing shelter that was located centrally within the pool. This new 2.5m wide x 2m high PMMA Plexiglass viewing panel was rebated within reinforced concrete walls and allows unobstructed underwater views of the sealions within the habitat. 


The existing sealion pool was filled with suitable fill and finished with a layer of well compacted sand to form a new picnic area. The existing life support and storage structures that remained in the area were refurbished to provide new café & restaurant facilities, storage & bathroom facilities.


Area 2 - Chilean Flamingo Aviary

A new 15,000m3 free flight aviary structure for the Chilean flamingos was constructed on the site of the existing flamingo habitat. The existing holding buildings were retained within the habitat while a new internal viewing area was created. The main aviary structure was constructed using 5 No. large “toblerone” steel trusses that were in turn supported by large diameter circular steel columns onto reinforced concrete pads foundations. This steel frame in turn supports a system of cables and mesh that create the closed space of the aviary. The internal viewing platform was created using a concrete deck supported by a steel frame system which in turn was supported by reinforced concrete piles placed into the existing lake bed. Access to and from the aviary is via steel framed vestibules at each end of the viewing platform.


Description of Role:

Civil Structural Engineering Services

Mechanical Electrical Engineering Services

Project Managers

Total Capital Value:


Dates of Involvement: 


Design Team

Architect: Jones & Jones Architects

Project Managers: Hayes Higgins Partnership

Civil & Structural Eng.: Hayes Higgins Partnership

Building Services Eng.: Hayes Higgins Partnership

Life Support System Eng.: Ted Maranda Consulting

Contractor: Tom Connolly & Sons               

Quantity Surveyor: John J Casey & Co.