Ocean Pavilion Sustainability

The new Ocean Pavilion is part of a larger plan, which includes improving the existing City-owned historic pier’s energy use and enhancing the facilities’ sustainability measures.

A Regenerative Future

The Seattle Aquarium envisions a future in which our operations support our mission through comprehensive, climate-positive impacts. With sustainability as one of our core institutional values, we’re creating a world-class, regenerative aquarium—meaning an aquarium that will not just achieve net-zero/neutral impact but go beyond that to achieve positive impact: producing more environmental benefits than harm to help ensure a climate-resilient, sustainable future for all. 

We’ve already made significant strides. For example, we’ve offset more greenhouse gas emissions than we currently account for annually. And we’ve developed a regenerative plan to guide our efforts now and into the future. Our goal is to become climate positive by actively reducing emissions first, offsetting remaining emissions and investing in climate-related projects.

Our vision of becoming a regenerative aquarium also means working to restore biodiversity to our one world ocean. Learn more about our projects to recover endangered species here at home and around the world.

The Ocean Pavilion And The Living Building Challenge

With the Ocean Pavilion, we’re pursuing our maximum, greatest positive impact. The International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a rigorous new rating system that builds on the momentum generated by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating program. Going above and beyond LEED certification, Living Buildings strive for net-zero emissions and net-positive energy (or generating more energy than they consume), are free of toxic chemicals and lower their energy footprint many times below standard/typical structures. Where LEED’s goals could be summarized as “reducing harm,” the Living Building Challenge could be characterized as “preventing harm and regenerating the environment.”

The Ocean Pavilion is targeting LBC Petal certification—with Petals being critical sustainability performance areas—and Aquarium leadership has taken the additional step of publicly stating their intent to achieve LBC Certification for the overall Aquarium campus as part of our plan vision. 
The Seattle Aquarium aspires to be one of the greenest (or bluest) aquariums in the world as part of our regenerative vision. 


Rendering of the new Ocean Pavilion building showcasing the entire building along the waterfront as seen from slightly above with the connection to Pike Place Market.

The Ocean Pavilion’s Smart Building Design

The Aquarium’s team of architecture, exhibit design, sustainability and construction experts is working to ensure that the Ocean Pavilion will prioritize energy efficiency, conservation and thus, ocean health and climate resilience. We’ve considered long-term energy use when analyzing building loads to offer protection from future climate and environmental changes.

We’re being deliberate in our construction material choices by minimizing plastics, vinyl, biocides and red-list materials. The project team is also analyzing embodied carbon in the new building, reducing where we can and offsetting what remains.

Minimizing Our Operational Carbon Footprint And Energy Use

As an organization focused on conservation and sustainability, we want to ensure the entire Aquarium campus aligns with our climate-positive goal by using the least amount of energy and producing the smallest carbon footprint possible. 

Our team has developed innovative strategies to drive efficiency for operations of the Ocean Pavilion, which will run 100% fossil-fuel free—the same is true for the animal care center.* Heating and cooling systems will run on electricity, provided by Seattle City Light’s clean grid, and new heat pump technology will be utilized to heat and cool the building—reducing the energy use and carbon footprint typically associated with the mechanical systems, such as boilers, of large facilities.

A semi-closed water system for animal life support will utilize a heat exchanger to keep the water at the right temperature, and recirculate and recycle water through an advanced denitrification technology, which will also drastically reduce our water usage as well as our carbon footprint.

*Our backup generators will be powered by diesel fuel and utilized only in the event of an extended power loss, with carbon offsets purchased to offset impact.