Housed in a historic building, Shedd is one of the world's largest indoor aquariums.
©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez Housed in a historic building, Shedd is one of the world's largest indoor aquariums.
In a move that is projected to save 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, officials at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium are working to cut the 83-year-old historic building’s energy consumption in half by 2020.
The initiative will make Shedd the nation’s first clean energy-powered cultural institution, part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 goal of improving citywide energy efficiency by 5 percent.
Aquarium officials worked with technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners to develop a “master energy roadmap” which outlines 24 areas of opportunity for energy savings, including energy storage, automation, and renewable generation. ECOHOME spoke with Tom Hulsebosch, director of West Monroe’s utility and smart energy practice, about the project and about energy management issues facing large institutions.
Tom Hulsebosch
Tom Hulsebosch

How did this initiative come about?

To date, Shedd Aquarium has approached energy-use management by focusing on one-off  facility improvements aimed at reducing energy consumption, instead of targeting its efforts on an integrated long-term strategy. After determining that the organization needs to take a holistic approach to energy management, Shedd officials turned to West Monroe Partners and a consortium of public and private companies to create a master energy roadmap to identify the objectives and key improvements that will deliver those objectives by priority and timeline. 
This plan will ultimately help Shedd slash its energy consumption in half by 2020, saving enough energy to power 750 households per year.
What is a master energy roadmap?
Shedd’s master energy roadmap included an assessment of the institution’s current energy profile, an evaluation of 24 specific areas of opportunity, and an outline for the process of managing and implementing the new energy resources, systems and procedures. 
By setting quantifiable objectives and outlining specifically what should be implemented to meet those goals, the master energy roadmap will provide Shedd officials with a guiding document to align its executive leadership and external stakeholders during the two-phase energy transformation. Due to the roadmap’s detailed nature, Shedd will be able to immediately move forward with securing specific project funding, engaging vendors, and executing the identified energy projects with the vision of completing all the proposed initiatives by 2020. The projects were broken out into two phases with mid-stage targets complete by 2015. 
To fund these changes, Shedd plans to seek government grants and private donations. In time, these investments will reap dividends financially, educationally, and environmentally. Each of the identified energy initiatives has a different payback period, but all have a positive financial ROI in addition to also meeting the education and environmental objectives. Click here for a list of the key elements of Shedd's master energy roadmap.
The aquarium receives 2 million visitors a year.
©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez The aquarium receives 2 million visitors a year.

What special considerations do large cultural institutions face in trying to be energy efficient? 

To maintain world-class care for its 32,500 animals representing more than 1,500 species--including a 24-hour life support system--Shedd requires a sophisticated energy system. Thus, critical-mission reliability was a crucial building block of the energy roadmap; we put a large emphasis on non-stop supply of energy and system redundancy to critical systems to ensure continued animal safety.
Another one of Shedd’s missions is to promote conservation of natural resources. Shedd wants to demonstrate to the 2 million visitors that attend the aquarium each year how it is accomplishing this dramatic reduction in energy consumption. Shedd wants to help the visitors understand how they reduced energy consumption within the aquarium and to inspire the visitors to better manage their energy consumption at their work and in their own homes.
Energy reduction is just one of 11 operational areas the aquarium is committed to improving over the next five years. Shedd’s long-term strategic sustainability plan also includes focuses from construction and water use to waste and chemical management.
What other types of energy/sustainability projects has your firm worked on? 
West Monroe Partners has completed dozens of energy/sustainability projects in the Chicagoland area and beyond. We have worked with many utilities across the nation to create their smart grid roadmaps and help them execute the initiatives outlined in these roadmaps. Other projects include:
--Working with local communities on their sustainability initiatives such as the Badger Mountain South development in Richland, Wash., to create a master energy roadmap for the 1,500-acre development.
--Working with the Naperville Department of Public Utilities on developing their smart grid roadmap, business case, vendor selections, as well as project execution.  
--Completing an Economic Value Framework for the city of Chicago to help evaluate its Climate Action Plan on more than just carbon mitigation potential. Our team looked at the economic impact of each action on job creation, ROI, and intangible benefits to the city.