FM Alert: Making Waves At Shedd Aquarium

Since 2003, through its Facility Executive of the Year (FEY) Award, TFM has recognized an outstanding facility management professional for their work on a renovation or new construction project, along with the value they bring to their organizations on a daily basis. We recently asked past FEY winners to revisit the project for which they were recognized.

This second in the series is from 2012 winner Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Featured in the January 2012 issue of TFM, Wengel was recognized for his ability to integrate his sustainable facilities vision into the Shedd’s overall goals. These accomplishments were part of the organization’s Five Year Sustainability Plan, and today the Wengel and his colleagues are immersed in the beginnings of a Master Energy Plan for the site.

Bob Wengel
Bob Wengel

By Bob Wengel

At Shedd Aquarium our 32,000 animals connect our guests to the living world, inspiring them to make a difference. We’re proud to be home to 1,500 species and have one of the largest collections of aquatic animals in the world. To ensure the health and welfare of this collection, Shedd includes sustainability among its core values and lives its mission everyday through smart operations. In 2011, Shedd developed a long-range sustainability plan that focused on 10 strategic areas, including energy, waste, water, chemical management, construction materials, and innovation. Focusing primarily on energy, water, and waste, since 2010 the Shedd facilities team has saved over 2.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, reduced our water usage by 46% and increased our waste diversion to 40%.

Energy Roadmap
In January 2013, Shedd announced its Master Energy Roadmap, an ambitious sustainability initiative that prioritizes energy innovation and aims to reduce its energy consumption by 50% by 2020. Created in partnership with the City of Chicago, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Development, and the Citizens Utility Board, the innovative “smart building” prototype will make Shedd the nation’s first clean energy-powered cultural institution. Shedd’s ambitious energy initiative will save close to 10 million kWh annually—enough to power 750 households.

Shedd Solar
©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Projects in the Roadmap include the installation of a 265 kilowatt solar system on the Oceanarium roof, which is currently operational as the installation was completed in October of 2013. Other projects include the installation of 32 electrical submeters to monitor and control the facility’s energy use, the installation of a one megawatt battery storage system to demonstrate a model of distributive generation for participating in frequency regulation markets in PJM, and installing variable frequency drives on our life support systems to reduce overall energy loads and to demonstrate that those assets can also be used for demand response and frequency regulation markets in PJM. Additionally, the Roadmap also calls for 85% of our lighting to be upgraded to LED and for the installation of advanced lighting controls and building analytics system software.

Waste Management
Our commitment to improving the lives of our animals and our institution doesn’t stop at our Roadmap. In fact, Shedd has also made tremendous progress in the area of waste management. Our current waste goal is for 90% of Shedd’s waste to be recycled or composted, versus depositing in a landfill, by 2018. To reach this goal we’ve created a new centralized waste sorting area that separates metals, light bulbs, electronics, and specialty items like plastics and styrofoam to ensure that the materials get hauled away to the correct locations for recycling. We also installed the EnviroPure food digesting system, which is designed to take the food waste from our food service and animal food prep kitchens, break it down and turn it into gray water, eliminating those materials from going to landfill.

Shedd Cooling Tower
©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Water Wise
Not surprisingly, water is an essential component to our operations and our exhibits represent many diverse environments from around the globe. Our water reduction plan was created with a guiding principle: Water reductions must be done without compromising our high level of animal care and without having a negative impact on our guest experience.

The Shedd Aquarium facilities team has been committed to water conservation since 2007 and has reduced our water usage by 46%. That represents a water savings of over 26 million gallons with our largest year of reduction coming in 2013 with 9.6 million gallons of water saved from the previous year. We are continually innovating how we can best improve the lives of our animals by bettering our resources and improving how we use them. One recent innovation was the creation of a rainwater capture system that feeds into the aquarium’s cooling tower. This was a very important and very cool (no pun intended) project that we’re proud of.

The Future
We’re proud that sustainability is integrated into every aspect of Shedd Aquarium’s operations—animal care, guest service, business practices, and building management. Conservation is part of our culture, energizes our staff members and volunteers, inspires our guests and colleagues, and supports Shedd’s vision for a healthy global environment. Our team is proud of the work we’ve accomplished in our sustainability plan and we look forward to expanding and advancing our systems in the years to come. For more information about Shedd’s sustainability goals and results, read our 2013 Sustainability Strategic Plan Progress Report.

The article on Wengel’s FEY Award can be found here.

Nominations are open for next year’s Facility Executive of the Year award. For more details and to view the nomination form, please visit this link.