Henry Doorly Zoo Desert Dome - Omaha, Neb.
The 13-story-tall Desert Dome, the world's largest glazed geodesic dome, replicates environments of the Namib Desert in western Africa, the Great Sandy Desert in Australia and the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States. The $16.5 million project includes a sand waterfall, a 50-foot mountain, canyons, a cactus forest, desert flora and fauna, and more than 48 desert animal exhibits. The lower level features the “Kingdoms of the Night” exhibit, which houses the world’s largest indoor nocturnal exhibit.
Construction of the geodesic dome began in October 1999. Major items of work included drilling 159 30-foot-deep belled piers; placing nearly 900 feet of buried reinforced concrete pipe; pouring two 41,000-square-foot base floor slabs; constructing a 32-foot-tall concrete ring wall; and erecting and anchoring the 137-foot-tall glazed dome, which is composed of 1,760 quarter-inch-thick acrylic, triangular-shaped panels. During construction of the slabs and ring wall, crews placed 10,000 tons of concrete and 250 tons of reinforcing steel. The dome was completed and opened to the public in March 2002.
Inside the dome, more than 2,000 feet of masonry walls enclose animal exhibits, keeper rooms and holding areas. Another 60,000 masonry blocks were used for irregular walls that form the exhibit rockwork's main support.