Chicago is embarking on a major undertaking, According to Pool & Spa News, the city's park district is moving forward with energy efficiency upgrades on many of its aquatics centers in a program that could serve as a model for other cities.

Under a new agreement, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust will upgrade facilities under the purview of the park district and also is hoping to strike a similar deal with the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education.

“The project provides for a better experience at the pools for the citizens of the city and the students,” CIT CEO Steve Beitler told senior editor Stephanie Mills.

All told, CIT is expected to perform energy audits on 141 aquatics centers held by Parks and the schools. Officials anticipate the audits will help narrow down a list of projects to consider, with those yielding the highest return on investment to be chosen, Mills reports.

In addition to potential renovations, upgrades may include new pumps or filters, windows, solar panels, boilers and other energy-saving components.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel created CIT three years ago as a method to establish alternate financing for infrastructure projects. The program is expected to help his goal to improve the overall efficiency of city buildings by 10 percent, with reductions closer to 15 or 20 percent for the aquatics centers, Mills adds.

Energy savings is expected to fund the projects. For example, if a facility paid $10 in energy costs per month, but the upgrades save 50 percent, that $5 savings would go toward financing of the project for the loan term, according to Mills.

“I think we will find that other municipalities, when they see that it’s working in Chicago and the sky doesn’t fall and there’s not an earthquake, will embrace it as well,” Beitler said. “… I think that the structure that was put into place is a good one that can be put into place anywhere.” Read More