Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo




Asia Trail's Green Elements

In keeping with the Zoo's mission of conservation of the natural environment, several sustainable design strategies were implemented in the design and construction of Asia Trail.

Green Roof Systems

Green roof systems—which reduce stormwater runoff, provide additional insulation, and create habitat for local birds, butterflies, and other fauna—were used on the sloth bear holding building, the small-clawed otter holding facility, the bamboo storage shed, and in smaller planters on the addition to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat building.

Solar Hot Water Systems

A solar hot water system, which uses the sun's heat instead of a non-renewable resource, was installed in the addition to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat building and in the sloth bear holding building.

Natural Paving Material

Several portions of the visitor path are paved with natural resin-bound aggregate paving instead of asphalt. This material uses tree resins instead of petroleum-based substances as a binding agent, and cures through hydration instead of chemical means, which reduces the amount of toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere.

Maximizing Daylight

The design of the indoor facilities maximizes daylight, which reduces the use of electricity. Some of the design features include clerestory windows and skylights, as well as light shelves that reflect light deeper into a room.

Ipe Wood

Wood decking was made with ipe, a tropical hardwood resistant to insects and rot. Because of its durability, the wood will not need to be replaced as often, which means less waste will be generated. This wood was certified as being harvested sustainably by the international Forest Stewardship Council. 


A variety of railings and decorations use bamboo, which is a rapidly renewable resource.

Reused, Recycled, and Greener Materials

Fallen logs and natural rocks from other areas in the Zoo were placed in the Asia Trail exhibits. Walk-off mats in the addition to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat building were made of recycled rubber. The wood used in the Research Office work stations is formaldehyde-free, and linoleum was used for lamination instead of plastic products. None of the cooling systems uses Freon, which depletes the ozone layer when released into the atmosphere.

Energy Star

Energy Star appliances were installed in all new kitchen facilities. Energy Star products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Natural Insulation

The sloth bear holding facility and the addition to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat's building are partially built into the earth, which helps to keep the facilities cooler naturally.