Under its £30m contract, Laing O’Rourke will transform an unused part of the zoo’s estate into the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi.
Linked by a series of bridges and including a journey on water, the zoo’s new Islands zone will be home to animals and plants from southeast Asian islands.
Work starts on site in August, with completion set for 2015.
Chester Zoo development director Simon Mann said: “This marks a new stage in the development of Chester Zoo and it will be unlike anything experienced before in a UK zoo. Islands is a complex project that includes the creation of landscaping themed to each island, an exotic boat journey and world-class animal exhibits which marry the exact needs of our animals with the best experience for visitors.
“We’re bringing these islands to life, right here in the heart of leafy Cheshire, and making the opportunity to visit these far-flung places a reality for many people. Finding a company who can understand our ethos and work confidently with us through the build process was vital.”
Tom Higgins, who leads Laing O’Rourke’s northern business, said: “We’ll apply the latest engineering solutions to the project, including digital engineering and Design for Manufacture & Assembly; techniques that will offer best value and allow for a more sustainable and safe delivery. We also share with Chester Zoo a strong focus on education, and we look forward to working with local schools and education providers as we deliver the Islands project.”
Islands also includes a new Indonesian jungle house, which will be the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK and home to Sumatran orangutans, Sulawesi macaques and a new species for the zoo, the sunda gavial crocodile.
It is expected that it will take zoo visitors two hours to journey their way around Islands.