A family of three gorillas traverse a grassy bluff, heading towards a sizable fallen tree.

Houston Zoo Gorillas of the African Forest

Innovative habitat engineering

Project Facts

Location Houston, Texas
Owner The Houston Zoo


Our team’s groundbreaking research and innovative engineering delivered the Houston Zoo’s newest exhibit and the largest gorilla habitat in North America. With meticulous planning and advanced techniques, we ensured the safety and comfort of both the gorillas and visitors alike.

A Western Lowland Gorilla stands on all fours atop a large rock, gazing towards the right side of the frame.

In the distance, a shaded platform overlooks the gorilla exhibit, nestled within a natural African environment featuring rock bluffs, low grasses, and an abundance of logs and rocks.

Textured concrete flooring and rustic wooden posts on the ceiling evoke a wild and authentic African atmosphere in the glass-walled gorilla-viewing area of the exhibit.

A canvas-shaded platform overlooks the gorilla exhibit, nestled within a natural African environment featuring rock bluffs and low grasses.

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About the project

We provided civil engineering for the new exhibit at the Houston Zoo, Gorillas of the African Forest. It is the largest gorilla exhibit in North America and is home to seven western lowland gorillas. We researched historic hydrologic characteristics of site and secured approvals to eliminate detention from the gorilla exhibit and other project sites at the zoo. This 2.5-acre site had approximately 20 feet of elevation change that required extensive grading. The site also included storm systems and a 20-foot-deep sanitary lift station.

Gorillas can unscrew bolts so all connections in the exhibit had to be welded or feature countersunk bolts. Gorillas can also use any debris over 3/8-inch to scratch and potentially break windows, so all earthworks had to use smaller-size soil particles. We developed an atypical pavement section with a geotechnical engineer using crushed granite without limestone or lime to avoid any potential damage to the plants and trees from soil stabilization. The project required extensive coordination with the architect, Houston Zoo, and Houston Parks and Recreation Department.