City of Chicago: John G. Shedd Aquarium


Shedd Aquarium is one of the oldest and most respected aquariums in North America. The Aquarium cares for more than 32,000 animals and maintains the most diverse aquatic collection in the world, with more than 1,500 species. Shedd Aquarium is dedicated to conservation education, animal care, and conservation science and research.


Shedd Aquarium is an economic contributor and is the crown jewel of Chicago’s cultural attractions. From a design perspective, the Aquarium is designated a national landmark and boasts many unique architectural features, including the Georgia marble clad exterior and rare Tiffany fixtures.

The Aquarium is owned and operated by the Shedd Aquarium Society, composed of volunteer business, civic, and community leaders. As Chicago’s top tourist attraction and the most visited U.S. Aquarium in 2012, the Aquarium welcomes more than 2 million guests annually.



In 1996, the Shedd Aquarium made a commitment to be more energy-efficient. Since then, the Aquarium has developed annual strategies and implemented several sustainability and energy-efficient practices. To maintain its world-class care for the aquarium’s 24-hour life support system, The Shedd Aquarium requires a sophisticated energy system that is highly efficient and highly responsive to the building’s supply needs.


In 2012, Shedd Aquarium, with the assistance from energy leaders including the City of Chicago, formalized a Master Energy Roadmap that outlined a multi-layered, multi-phased approach to reduce energy consumption by 50-percent by 2020. The Roadmap is an integrated strategy for energy management that aligns smart energy initiatives with the Aquarium’s core missions.

The Shedd Aquarium Society three step evaluation process included:

  1. Modeling current energy consumption;
  2. Convening energy leaders to identify preliminary energy opportunities and vetting the scope of the Roadmap; and
  3. Evaluating 24 potential energy opportunities against three mission-focused criteria: Financial Value, Energy Value, and Institutional Value.

The roadmap set measurable objectives and outlined specific projects that provide a clean and reliable habitat for animals, lower energy expenditures, achieve a more sustainable supply of power, and create educational opportunities.

Shedd Aquarium’s roadmap will pilot new technologies and management strategies. Key elements include:

  • Advanced Intelligence: New electricity submeters will capture energy use in real time, allowing the Aquarium to adjust consumption patterns and deploy energy-saving strategies.
  • Energy Efficiency: Replace 75 percent of lights with high efficiency LEDs and invest in variable speed drives, building envelope enhancements, and heating and cooling optimization.
  • Automation and Control: Use enhanced automation systems to reduce peak electricity demand, lower overall electricity rate, take advantage of real-time pricing to adjust electricity consumption as prices rise and fall, and access the “demand response” market to collect payments from utilities for smart energy use during high-demand periods on the electric grid.
  • Energy Storage: Increase reliability in the event of rare blackouts and allow Shedd Aquarium to participate in new “ancillary service” markets to bring in new revenue.
  • On-site Renewable Generation: On-site and local solar power will save money and supply critically important power in the event of a blackout.

Work on this project started in January 2013, with additional project phases being implemented over the next six years; energy savings are expected to reach 50% and $550,000 annually by project completion in 2020.



Once complete, the energy efficiency roadmap will fulfill the Aquarium’s goal of becoming the nation’s first smart-powered aquarium, serve as an international model, and fulfill the City’s vision of the Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Agenda and Mayor Emanuel’s Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative. To date, the Aquarium has already garnered widespread local and national media coverage that highlights its energy efficiency leadership efforts.


In addition to operating cost reduction and energy savings, Shedd Aquarium’s efficiency efforts also offer a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Association of Zoo and Aquarium accreditation
  • Green/energy efficiency awards
  • Opportunities for aquarium guest engagement (2 million visitors/year)
  • Reduced maintenance / operations monitoring costs
  • Continued delivery of high-quality comfort and care for its guests and animals
  • Enhanced lighting of aquarium exhibits

Finally, due to lack of comparable data for similar facilities, Shedd Aquarium is prepared to break new ground and serve as a national pilot program. By sharing the Aquarium’s energy efficiency roadmap and results, Shedd Aquarium hopes to work with energy efficiency agencies and organizations to establish a new, nationally-recognized standard for energy efficiency.


Annual Energy Use

(Source EUI)
Baseline (2012)
518 kBtu/sq. ft.
Expected (2020)
259 kBtu/sq. ft.
Actual (2020)
Coming soon

Energy Savings:


Annual Energy Cost

Baseline (2012)
Expected (2020)
Actual (2020)
Coming soon

Cost Savings:


Sector Type

Local Government


Chicago, Illinois

Project Size

452,600 Square Feet

Financial Overview

$4.5 Million

Shedd Aquarium exterior
Shedd Aquarium exterior

Shedd Aquarium Caribbean Reef
Shedd Aquarium Caribbean Reef

Oceanarium Beluga Overlook
Oceanarium Beluga Overlook