Seattle Aquarium Partners with MacDonald-Miller to Improve Energy Efficiency

Posted: May, 11 2015
Sponsored by MacDonald-Miller

The Seattle Aquarium’s mission is to become a deeper shade of green. They chose to partner with MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions to revamp their facility and transform the way they operate, as their first step towards reducing their carbon footprint, cutting costs on utility bills, and contributing to a better environment for the Pacific Northwest.

We talked with Ryan Dean, Director of Finance at the Aquarium, about the changes taking place.

Why did the Seattle Aquarium decide to reduce energy consumption?

It makes great financial sense, and it is also consistent with the mission of the aquarium — to inspire conservation of the marine environment — and we hope to showcase a lot of what we are doing so that our guests who come to see the animals and the magic of the oceans will also see how the aquarium is trying to live in a manner consistent with its mission.

How much are you saving?

We are saving 1.3 million gallons of water annually and approximately over 25% on utility bills.

Did you face any unique challenges?

There are parts of running an aquarium that are different than a commercial office space or home or a football stadium. One unique challenge we faced was the replacement of the gas boilers in Pier 59 for the coral reef habitat, which is the part of the aquarium that houses the warm, ocean-water, tropical fish. 

The challenge was that there could be no down time on the replacement. For the fish to survive, their warm water home had to remain heated. MacMiller came up with a plan for the transition in which they kept the old boilers on site in case there were any issues firing up the new boilers. Everything went smoothly according to plan, and our fish are happily swimming in perfect conditions.

Are there any interesting highlights from your partnership with MacDonald-Miller?

One distinctive part of our journey was the replacing of all HVAC systems in pier 60. The structure, which is almost entirely made from concrete, was built new in 1977 and used that era’s electric strip heating system, which is incredibly inefficient by today’s standards.

Seattle Aquarium buliding

The building is also partially submerged in Puget Sound and therefore requires nearly year-round heating. MacMiller was up to the challenge and designed an overall HVAC program using condensing heat exchangers which can much more efficiently produce heat from electricity than the old system could.

What are the benefits of these energy projects to you as a Seattle business?

These energy projects are going to produce nearly $250,000 in one-time utility rebates and save us about $100,000 a year in annual utility expenses. Additionally, we are looking at cutting our carbon footprint by about 20%. That is a big impact for a mission-driven business in Seattle and can hopefully serve as an example for others to follow.

As an industry leader in Building Performance, MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions designs, builds, and optimizes, saving energy costs for our customers. With optimal energy performance, the utility costs of a building can be trimmed by 50%. Not only does this eliminate wasteful spending, it reduces unwarranted harm to the environment. Plus system tune-ups extend equipment life and improve reliability. To receive a customized energy audit on your building, contact Perry England, Vice President of Building Performance, at energy@macmiller.com.

Read more about MacDonald-Miller's efforts to help PNW companies improve energy efficiency.

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