Case Study: Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society Inspires Sustainable Design


As part of ongoing improvements to the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society, designers at Michael Singer Studio were tasked with reimagining the entry plaza in a way that would embody the organization’s values and conservation mission, as well as demonstrate to the visiting public how to build sustainably in South Florida.


In Florida, there is a significant focus on stormwater management and codes require new construction take efforts to manage runoff. Designers created a striking feature for the new entryway, an approximately 7,850 square foot tiger stripe pattern, but had to implement it in a way that controlled water runoff. Contractors suggested stained concrete, but this did not have the environmental and water control properties needed.


To create the tiger pattern and control water runoff at the same time, Singer Studio chose Belgard’s® Eco-Holland® permeable pavers in Napoli and Aragon colors. Designer Jason Bregman notes these have “a much better aesthetic, can more readily be repaired and had the environmental benefits we wanted,” compared to stained concrete. The permeable pavers let stormwater filter into the ground beneath, allowing the walkway and multi-use patio area to serve as green space through which water can move. “As an added eco-benefit, the pavers were regionally manufactured and there was recycled content used as the aggregate beneath them,” adds Bregman.

Bregman reached out to Precise Paving, Inc. to install the pattern using permeable pavers—with no visible edging. Together, they came up with dimensions that would work using the full pavers.

“It was more challenging to lay the 4x8 pavers in this type of pattern, but keeping them intact without cutting them to fit saved three or four days of installation and was more economical,” says Rob Goossens Jr., vice president of Precise Paving, Inc. “This is a great example for other projects looking to incorporate dynamic designs because it shows it is possible to do unique patterns without the added labor and cost of cutting the pavers.”


The ribbon cutting for the Zoo Entry Plaza Honoring Donors Ruth and Ted Baum was held in November of 2018. “This project represents an investment in our Zoo as the second-most visited cultural attraction in Palm Beach County,” said Palm Beach Zoo CEO and President, Margo McKnight, at the event. “It provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere to our visitors and members.”

In addition to the tiger striped entryway, Michael Singer Studio created sculpted walls, layers of vegetation and a flowing water garden that soften the edges of the entry plaza to retain the intimate experience that is at the core of the Palm Beach Zoo’s identity. Over time, the sculpted walls will be partially covered in a blanket of climbing Ficus. The sculpted concrete in the walls and water garden is locally cast with 100% recycled concrete aggregate. A new Florida Power and Light 100kW solar array shade structure covers a significant portion of the parking lot, and the plaza bollards are made from 100% recycled cast aluminum.

I’m really pleased with the way the design turned out—and that it could be accomplished with a pervious system that was within budget,” says Bregman.