A step-by-step guide to building a rainforest

A glimpse beneath the canopy of the new Rainforest House

The largest construction project currently underway at the Tierpark is the renovation of the listed Alfred Brehm building, which was built in 1963 and is now being transformed into a modern Rainforest House. Once the conversion is complete, the facility will give visitors new insight into the natural habitats of jungle animals.

Redeveloping and upgrading an existing building is always more demanding, time-consuming and nerve-wracking than starting from scratch – especially when the existing building, or parts of it, are listed. In order to get a better idea of the complex processes involved in such a project, we asked the Technical Department about the planning behind the renovation of the Alfred Brehm building. They summarised it in four steps:

1.    Creating a requirements overview with the building client
As a first step, the building client – in this case Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem – clarifies the precise task list with the Technical Director. This includes making preliminary schedules, working out rough budgets, and outlining how the project will be financed. As the Tierpark does not possess the funds for a project of this scale, it had to start by submitting grant applications in order to raise the money required for the renovation of the Alfred Brehm building. The results of all these negotiations are summarised, documented and used to create an overview of the project requirements. This overview is then examined by the funding bodies and, ideally, approved without any hitches. The Alfred Brehm building conversion is being financed by various bodies: the Berlin Lotto Stiftung is contributing the lion’s share of approx. €3.6 million euros, while the State of Berlin is providing €2.2 million. The Gemeinschaft der Förderer von Zoo und Tierpark Berlin (Society of Zoo and Tierpark Patrons) is also lending its support with the sum of €475,000.

2.    Putting together the planning team

The next step is to select external planning partners. This involves researching suitable companies and candidates, receiving quotes, and signing fee contracts. As the Tierpark is using public funding for the renovation, planning services must be put out to tender in accordance with the applicable procurement rules. Generally, at least three bids have to be compared. For projects involving fees of €221,000 and above, the tender must be EU-wide.

3.    Beginning of the planning phase
The extensive planning phase can be divided into six sub-steps:

1.    Basic evaluation
This step involves a site visit and the inspection of existing documents such as building plans, specifications, permits, etc. However, with a structure as old as the Alfred Brehm building, many of these important documents are often lacking. The requirements overview is then used to specify the exact task at hand. Any additional requirements are also identified, e.g. specialist planners for electrical systems, heating, sanitary facilities, ventilation, and fire safety.

2.    Preliminary planning
This step involves analysing the established project foundations and coordinating the objectives. On the basis of this, a preliminary plan is drawn up – including, for example, scale drawings.
Another important aspect of preliminary planning is establishing the impact of the project on all stakeholders. It’s not only construction physics, functional and technical aspects that are taken into account here, but other important elements such as urban development, design, economics, the environment, energy, society, and public law. Preliminary negotiations can then begin with the relevant authorities in order to gain approval for the project. This mainly involves the planners working with building authorities, historical monument authorities, and fire safety experts. It is up to the planners to find a solution that satisfies all the requirements in the best possible way. Following this surveying and negotiation phase, a more concrete cost estimate is made and a schedule is drawn up for the main planning and construction processes.

3.    Design planning
During the design planning phase, the initial sketches from the preliminary planning stage are adapted and further developed. In addition, a precise description of the building is prepared and detailed negotiations are held with the authorities (building, historical monuments, fire safety, etc.) to gain approval for individual aspects such as colour, materials and incorporation of historical elements. The preliminary cost estimate is replaced by a concrete cost calculation and the schedule is further elaborated and refined.

4.    Approval planning
This step involves developing and gathering the drafts and supporting documents for the permits required under public law. The actual building application is now finally submitted to the building authorities. In the case of publicly funded projects such as this one, the building design documentation must also be prepared and submitted to the Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing. This step alone can take up to six months.

5.    Implementation planning
Next, all necessary information for the precise implementation of the plans must be drawn up, using explanatory text and illustrations.
The schedule continues to be updated and refined throughout this stage. Any changes that are made during or after this very decisive step will result in a significantly greater time delay and often higher costs than changes made during preliminary planning.

6.    The tendering process and the awarding of contracts
A timeframe for all award dates is created, and the required services are described in detail. On the basis of these descriptions, the concrete costs are determined and quotes are obtained from contractors. Here, too, the applicable procurement rules for publicly funded construction projects must be followed. After various bids have been received, these offers are carefully reviewed and interviews may be organised with the applicants. Present at these interviews are the client and the architect, as well as members of the project management team. On the basis of these interviews, recommendations for contractors are made and, once the client has granted his or her approval, the relevant contracts are signed.

4.    Beginning of the building phase

Depending on how quickly applications are approved and how frequently plans change, it can take many months or even years for the planning phase to be completed.

1.    Monitoring the construction work
The most important task in this phase is to ensure that all plans are implemented with utmost care. This is the responsibility of the architect and/or site manager. This involves coordinating everyone involved in the construction work – i.e. who is doing what when and where? It also involves making sure that work is running to schedule so as to avoid any further delays. Together with the contractors, the entire building including all its outdoor facilities need to be very precisely measured. As work progresses, the architect must check all incoming invoices and the client must maintain a constant overview of the costs. The construction process is also meticulously recorded in a construction log. Whenever a construction phase is completed, an inspection is carried out by the supervising architect in the presence of the relevant contractor and the client. These inspections include making sure that the work corresponds to the original plan – from the height of a light switch to the smooth functioning of the double-door system between two tiger habitats.

2.    Documenting the project
The work doesn’t end when the renovation is complete. For the documentation of the project, extensive records must be compiled so that the successfully completed project can finally be officially handed over to the client.
The new building is then checked for possible defects – which, if present, must be removed by the contractors, under supervision.
For publicly funded projects such as the Alfred Brehm building renovation, proof of the proper use of funds must also be produced and submitted.

If all goes to plan, the new Rainforest House should open to the public in 2019.
The new building is then checked for possible defects – which, if present, must be removed by the contractors, under supervision.
For publicly funded projects such as the Alfred Brehm building renovation, proof of the proper use of funds must also be produced and submitted.

If all goes to plan, the new Rainforest House should open to the public in 2019.

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