Chiller ConstructionComplex Mechanical SystemsCooling Tower Construction

Chicago Aquarium’s Water Use Reduction is Lesson in Strategic Sustainability

In 2009 when the Chicago Aquarium commissioned an audit of the facility’s water usage, one of the surprising findings was that the cooling systems were the leading cause of water use. Not the water used in the actual fish and mammal habitats.

After this discovery, the aquarium created a Sustainability Strategic Plan (SSP), which included a goal of reducing water consumption by 50% over the next nine years. According to an article in Water Quality Products magazine, one of the leading opportunities was improving the chiller systems that maintain the correct temperatures for both the habitats and the more traditional human-use interior spaces.

Starting in 2012 the team replaced three 500-ton chillers and a cooling tower. These upgrades led to an immediate reduction in water use, to the tune of three million gallons! The article adds,

“Along with the new cooling tower system, the team installed a closed condensing loop system. This system allowed the aquarium to take all the refrigeration systems that were used for animal and human food storage, and remove them from an old domestic water line that would cool the units by running straight city water through them to drain on the closed loop system.”

Combined with additional upgrades, the project resulted in an annual reduction of nearly 18 million gallons of water. Other related infrastructure improvements included an upgraded filtration system, a tube bundle heat exchanger and recycling water between aquarium environments. Ultimately the projects resulted in a 53% reduction in water use, totaling more than 30 million gallons per year.

The article highlights one of the key opportunities in a central plant upgrade – looking past the desired functional needs to include benefits such as sustainability, LEED certification, and other long-term benefits that can reap rewards beyond those typically associated with projects of this type. By engaging a design-build firm with practical expertise and experience like Greenland Enterprises early in the process, the full benefits of an upgrade can be realized. If you’re considering a central plant or similar complex system upgrade, give the Greenland team a call and start the conversation about what is needed, and what is possible.