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Chen Wang, Deseret News
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker tours Hogle Zoo's new facility with Dr. Nancy Carpenter, associate director of animal health, on Tuesday.

Everyone is probably thrilled with the new animal care center at Hogle Zoo — except the window washers.

While the old animal hospital had just a few windows, the L.S. Skaggs Animal Health Center that opened Tuesday boasts dozens.

Sunlight in the animal areas, provided through skylights and windows with special coating, will reduce the need for artificial lighting through the building's energy-efficient design.

And the windows offer another benefit, too. According to veterinary staff, natural light can speed healing and reduce stress in animals.

Nearly twice the size of the previous facility, the state-of-the-art building will allow veterinarians to give an unprecedented level of care for the zoo's nearly 900 animals.

"We're very excited today," zoo director Craig Dinsmore said. "It will provide the very best care for the animals entrusted to us."

"Having this facility will make an enormous difference for the animals," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon praised the building's efficient design. "I love seeing the solar panels," he said.

The center is on track for LEED gold certification, the second-highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizing sustainable green building and development practices.

In addition to natural lighting and solar panels, the building has energy recovery mechanical units, low-voltage lights with occupancy sensors and water-efficient plumbing fixtures.

Becker said the center raises the bar for public buildings in Salt Lake City, noting LEED silver certification is the city's previous best effort.

"Completion of the new L.S. Skaggs Animal Health Center is the next step into the future of animal health care at Utah's Hogle Zoo," said Dr. Nancy Carpenter, Hogle Zoo associate director for animal health. "This 7,200-square-foot facility will enable the veterinary staff to treat critically ill patients, house larger and more dangerous animals than in the previous hospital, and to provide advanced diagnostics during routine physical exams."

"Along with the Behavioral Management Program (enrichment and training), which is part of the veterinary department, the animal health care staff is equipped to provide a more holistic approach to the life care of our animals, mentally and physically," she said.

The facility replaces the previous hospital, which was built in 1980 and expanded in 1984.

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The new building's design used part of the old animal hospital for cost reduction while also recycling building materials, thus allowing 83 percent of construction waste to be diverted from landfills.

While the new facility will not be open to the public, except during special events, Dinsmore said people should realize it is equal to or better than that at any similar-sized zoo in the nation. The facility is located along Sunnyside Avenue, at the extreme west end of the zoo.

The $3 million center received a $1.5 million donation from the ALSAM Foundation (named for L.S. "Sam" and Aline Skaggs).

e-mail: lynn@desnews.com