projects. “Once you move animals into an exhibit, you can’t just move them
out to fix something,” he says.
Mr. Janikowski agrees. Zoo project work must be perfect. “If you’ve got a one
in a million chance of something going wrong and 10 million visitors a year,
that’s 10 safety issues per year,” he says. “You can’t have that.”
Every detail matters. For instance, Mr. Janikowski has staggered the height
of picket-style fences along animal enclosures, so parents can’t set children on
top of the fence. He also has incorporated animal enclosure doors that open
inward—so if an animal accidentally enters a space and tries to attack a zoo-
keeper, the animal is more likely to hit the door and close it than to push it open.
His teams also bring on zoological experts to review each project plan before
construction. “We sit with their team and go through every choice to ensure the
public and staff will be protected,” he says.
To execute projects on often short timelines, Mr. Kerr relies on constant training of team members, along with excellent communication and acknowledgments
of the many hours teams put in. (See case study, page 36.) “When they work long
hours, you run the risk that quality will slip, deliverables will get missed and damage will occur,” Mr. Kerr says. To mitigate this risk, he recognizes the accomplishments of his teams and provides perks, such as arranging for the park’s food and
beverage outlets to feed the contractor’s team members during daily lunchtime
stand-up meetings at critical points on larger projects. “It’s a small thing, but it
shows them we care, and it keeps them energized,” he says.
Before exhibits open to the public, Mr. Kerr’s teams call on the park’s zoological experts to conduct all final inspections and approve any work involving
animals. “The zoological people have the right to veto anything that impacts
animal health,” he says. He seeks to build extra time into the project plan for
these site reviews, which can reveal mistakes that contractors might overlook.
For example, during the final commissioning tests of the US$89 million Ocean
Park’s Polar Adventure attraction, contractors failed to thoroughly flush the
water filtration system pipework prior to finishing the project, which meant
that, if not detected, scraps of metal and other debris eventually could have
washed into the pools. Swallowing such debris would be extremely dangerous
for the animals. “This happens in all kinds of construction projects, but in these
situations it is vital to aim for the equivalent of essentially hospital construction
standards in terms of overall system integrity, cleanliness and reliability,” Mr.
Focusing on animal welfare first and committing to good stakeholder management is the key to designing world-class exhibits that adhere to today’s
culture of conservation while still creating exciting experiences for zoo visitors,
Mr. Janikowski says. “You can make a lot of choices to save money or make the
exhibit more exciting. But animal welfare must always come first.”
You can make a lot
of choices to save
money or make
the exhibit more
exciting. But animal
always come first.”