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Sitting in the office of Rick Schwartz, President of the Nashville Zoo, one begins to understand his passion for his work. Hundreds of books and journals line the shelves and describe thousands of animal species, chronicle their behaviors and explore the survival needs of both wildlife and wild places. Scale models of animals and zoo habitats adorn the office, as do myriad animal skulls of various sizes. Rick Schwartz, now in his 27th year at the Nashville Zoo, has made the care and preservation of these great natural resources his life’s work.

Rick embraces the concept of everything matters and, as a result, a zoo that attracted approximately 70,000 visitors annually when it opened in 1997 will soon approach one million visitors per annum, a 14% annual growth rate. The zoo introduced white rhinoceros, installed the Soaring Eagle zip line, and completed construction on a new multi-building entrance. Additionally, new exhibits for spider monkeys, Sumatran tigers and Andean bears also opened. Future plans also include a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital. Clearly, the Nashville Zoo, already one of Music City’s top attractions, plans to maintain its aggressive growth rate.

When asked about the projects and the most important elements of design, Rick responded with a simple answer: (1) “Authenticity.” He later added that the new wildlife exhibits had to present a realistic view of animals in the wild. This concern for realism prompts him to walk routinely from one new exhibit to the next and to study every detail of their design and construction – a painstaking approach that resulted in recognition. The Greater Tennessee Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors conferred its Construction of Excellence Award on the Nashville Zoo for its new entrance.

From a visitor’s perspective, the exhibit roof represents a critical aspect of design. Visitors often see the roof well before reaching the exhibit, and thus the roof has the ability to pique their interest and draw them near. Once again, authenticity proves paramount. South American thatch roofs would protect the spider monkeys while the Sumatran tigers would take shelter under Southeast Asian thatch; and for the other recent project, the new multi-building entrance, African thatch would invite guests into the Zoo’s sanctuaries.

Initially, Rick looked for sources of natural thatch to create the desired look for each environment. Natural thatch, though unmatched for authenticity, presented a series of challenges. For example, would it satisfy Nashville codes for fire and wind resistance? Would it prove durable or would it wither and fade? Would it protect against heavy rains and provide dry shelter? What kind of maintenance would it require? Rick began to think that he needed a better solution and, despite his misgivings about man-made products, turned his attention to synthetic thatch.

After several visits to other zoos/parks and, in particular, a visit to Disney World in Orlando where he experienced the Regions series by Endureed, Rick decided on synthetic thatch and the Endureed brand. Endureed’s products are known worldwide for their (2) authentic appearance, durability and fire/wind resistance. Their 20-year warranty reinforced his decision. His next challenge, finding the right color and look, proved easier than anticipated. According to Rick, (3) “The Endureed team listened and went to work customizing colors and creating the desired aesthetic. They couldn’t have been easier to work with or more professional.”

Ultimately, the Nashville Zoo selected a modified version of the Regions Kilimanjaro thatch for the entrance, Regions Kona thatch for the Sumatran tiger exhibit and VIVA Palm for the spider monkey exibit. “At first,” Rick said, “The Endureed products seemed expensive, but then I realized that we wouldn’t be replacing the roofs every six or seven years and that the ongoing maintenance cost of the Endureed products over their 20+ year life would most likely prove negligible; their installations bear this out. In the end, we clearly made the right decision and, from my perspective, I can’t imagine using anyone else.

1 . Endureed provides authentic thatch roofing you can be proud of!

2 . Endureed products offer a 20-year guarantee, fire/wind resistance, and unbelievably natural appearance.

3 . The endureed team will listen and make all the work so you can just relax and enjoy a thatched roof you can be proud of.

Whether you have a zoo project, vacation home, or resort palapa our team can help! Call us today at 1-866-229-9008 or get a quick quote online to get your project started!

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