Learn more about MGAC’s acquisition of RLF

Smithsonian Seal & Sea Lion Exhibit

Washington, DC

The Beaver Valley Trail, named after a family of wild beavers that once lived in the area, has been a part of the National Zoo since the late 1800s. In 2007, thirty years after its last renovation, the Zoo’s design and development team decided Beaver Valley was in need of an overhaul – renaming it American Trail to reflect the diversity of the once-endangered native animals on display that are now thriving due to conservation efforts. Inspired by its own conservation mission, the Zoo put its beliefs into action by replacing its outdated habitats with sustainably-operated facilities that would better serve the animals who call them home. We joined this project as a part of a 10-year IDIQ Contract with the Smithsonian Institution, providing project management services for the design and construction of the Trail’s largest and most popular attraction, the Seal and Sea Lion Exhibit – whose leaking pool was losing over 100,000 gallons of water a day. Replacing the facility were two state-of-the-art pools – 300,000-gallon and 125,000-gallon – that provide both a better environment for the animals and viewing experience for Zoo’s two million annual visitors. True to their sustainable mission, the Zoo also installed a new water processing system aimed at a 75% reduction in water use that improved water clarity and enhanced animal health through the creation of sea water. The exhibit is themed to the Pacific Northwest, and we led the coordination of more than 60 subcontractors to deliver the distinct environment – including artistic and natural hardscape, the installation of a wave machine and active tidal feature, diverse native landscaping, a modern amphitheater, ADA accommodations, and multi-level viewing. The award-winning exhibit reopened to the public in 2012 – delighting visitors of all ages and continuing the Zoo’s mission of demonstrating leadership in animal care, science, education, and sustainability.


12,000 SF Building;
112,000 SF Public Space




Designed to LEED Standards


2013 Craftsmanship Award – Exterior Stone for National Zoological Park – Seal & Sea Lion Exhibit with Forrester Construction Company, Washington Building Congress

2013 Excellence in Construction Award for National Zoo & Sea Lion Exhibit with Forrester Construction Company, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington

2012 Project Achievement Award - Projects with a Constructed Value less than $50M for National Zoological Park - Seal & Sea Lion Exhibit with Forrester Construction Company, Construction Management Association of America

2011 Craftsmanship Award – Sitework; Underpinning, Foundations & Excavations for National Zoological Park – Seal & Sea Lion Exhibit with Forrester Construction Company, Washington Building Congress

Credit: Sisson
Credit: Sisson
Credit: Sisson


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