The Georgia Aquarium including the Dolphin Expansion, Sea Lion Exhibit, and Predator Exhibit

Atlanta, Georgia

The Georgia Aquarium, Inc.

Project Size:
628,140 sq ft


ENR Southeast Best Project in Sports/Entertainment (Sea Lion Exhibit)

ABC Excellence in Construction Award

AGC Build Georgia Award

Phoenix Award

Pinnacle Award

Southeast Construction Best Overall Project (Dolphin Expansion)

ABC of Georgia Award of Excellence (Sea Lion Exhibit)

The Georgia Aquarium, located at the World of Coca-Cola complex in downtown Atlanta, was the largest aquarium in the world at the time of construction. This three-story, 440,000 sq ft facility holds more than 8 million gallons of fresh and salt water. It includes veterinary services; a water testing/monitoring laboratory; a Wolfgang Puck catering kitchen; a grand ballroom with floor-to-ceiling tank views; a food court; a 4-D theater; conservation, research, and educational areas; animal quarantine and receiving facilities; and a 1,650-space parking deck. Designed to create the ultimate guest experience, the Georgia Aquarium features 114,000 sq ft of exhibit space, including adult and child interactive opportunities, artificial rock work, theming, props, and fiberglass and acrylic tanks. More than 100,000 aquatic animals representing over 500 species from around the world are on display at the aquarium.


The initial Georgia Aquarium project included 47 exhibits consisting of small, complex interior build-out work. To manage the work most efficiently and cost-effectively, we opted to have contractors bid each exhibit area separately. This process provided more competitive pricing and gave us the ability to select and assign work to the best-qualified contractor for each space. It also allowed smaller exhibit contractors, who could not have handled the entire exhibit scope, to participate, and prevented a single exhibit contractor from being overloaded with too many areas.

For the aquarium to open on schedule, our team devised a plan to phase owner turnover, allowing facility staff to move into and familiarize themselves with areas of the facility one step at a time. We divided the aquarium into 17 areas, turning the first over in March 2005, nearly seven months prior to the required completion date. As we progressed, we acquired Temporary Certificates of Occupancy (TCOs) from the City and continued to turn over areas to the aquarium staff one at a time so they could prepare along the way.


After completing the Georgia Aquarium in 2005, we were contracted in September 2008 to complete an 80,000 sq ft expansion for bottlenose dolphins. Nearly the size of two football fields and featuring a 1.8-million-gallon exhibit for up to 11 dolphins, the space features viewing windows and stadium seating for dolphin shows. After completion of this expansion, the aquarium’s total water capacity exceeded 10 million gallons.

Our team self-performed all of the structural concrete on the project, initially placing over 100,000 cubic yards of concrete and then adding 30,000 cubic yards to complete the dolphin expansion. By self-performing, we maintained the budget on the fast-track delivery, beat the overall schedule, and provided the aquarium more than ample time to prepare for opening day.


In 2015, our team completed demolition of the Georgia Explorer Gallery, one of the aquarium’s original exhibits, and constructed a 25,295 sq ft sea lion show exhibit including a 585-seat theater. The project included demolition of existing tanks in the west holding area and 4,473 sq ft of construction of four concrete tanks to serve as the permanent overnight home for the sea lions. The 4,464 sq ft existing north basement level was also renovated. This project included temporary protection, demolition, concrete, masonry, miscellaneous steel, doors, Stonhard flooring, painting, FRP, and MEP and fire suppression systems.


The newest expansion of the Georgia Aquarium, SHARKS! Predators of the Deep, is one of the largest and most dynamic shark exhibits in North America. Featuring many unique elements and state-of-the-art technology, the 1.2-million-gallon exhibit is interactive and immersive, with a focus on expansive acrylic viewing areas and a cage-diving program. The expansion also includes a new jelly fish exhibit, which is the largest of its kind in the world. In addition to the new exhibits, the expansion includes a new entrance and exit as well as new office spaces, retail spaces, and a loading dock. The new four-level structure ties in to the iconic boat on the south elevation, changing the face of the current largest aquarium in the nation.