Asiatic Lion Enclosure, Chester Zoo

Sectors: Civil Engineering Division

Client: Chester Zoo

Value: £1.56million

“This remarkable species is facing a very uncertain future. The European endangered species breeding  programme is critically important. If the worst was to happen in the wild, good zoos would be the only thing standing between Asiatic lions and extinction.

“We’re very proud to be able to give the Asiatic lion pride the world’s best conservation breeding facilities. We also hope the new area will help us raise much needed awareness about the plight of Asiatic lions.”

Dr Mark Pilgrim, Chester Zoo’s Chief Executive Officer


We were appointed as Principal Contractor to construct the new Asiatic Lions Enclosure including the design of the lion accommodation and secondary steel work elements at Chester Zoo.


Our team installed a 4000m² lion paddock, a new lion building and other ‘off show’ areas where the lions are out of view from the Zoo’s visitors. We also built keeper facilities, a separate new education building and the public access and viewing area, which were connected to the existing Zoo site.


Our role as Principal Contractor involved planning, managing and coordinating all work during the construction phase of this exciting project as well as  ensuring hazards were identified and risks controlled. Working collaboratively with the animal team at Chester Zoo, consultant design team and other contractors on a daily basis, our number one priority was balancing the visitor experience with the overall well being of the lions.

We value engineered the project, proposing a number of ways in which the overall budget could be reduced and early supply chain partner involvement was key to this. Cost savings were made in a number of ways including the removal of spoil from site, which also reduced environmental impact and pollution. Alternative products and materials were sourced where possible to reduce cost and we worked closely with our steel work partners during design phase to also deliver costs savings.

Identifying a number of modifications at the outset of the project benefited both the zookeepers and the lions. We worked in partnership with the architects suggesting alternative structural connections for the perimeter of the paddock, which created more viewing space for visitors whilst at the same time providing a barrier for the lions. We also suggested enhancements to the animal heating system which makes the future maintenance of the enclosure easier and reduces risk for the animal team.

The site was situated adjacent to the live zoo and our team had to be mindful of minimising disruption to neighbouring animals and the weekly schedule of Zoo operations. Work was programmed with a focus on mitigating the risk of disruption which sometimes meant work being carried out during evenings outside of the Zoo opening hours.

Overall we worked hard to establish robust design management processes and controls to drive the design outputs, so that we could deliver to programme and specification.