The Southeast Aquarium: Chilled Water System Redesign and Combined Heat and Power Assessment

Open Access
Hedges, Dayna Lyn
Area of Honors:
Architectural Engineering
Bachelor of Architectural Engineering
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • James Freihaut, Thesis Supervisor
  • Richard George Mistrick, Honors Advisor
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Chilled Water
  • Combined Heat and Power
  • CHP
  • Co-generation
  • Heat Exchangers
  • Aquarium
  • BIM
  • Life Support Systems
  • HVAC
The Southeast Aquarium is large facility located in the Southeastern region of the United States that is home to a wide variety of aquatic species. Since its opening in 2005, the aquarium has undergone several major renovations, adding two additional galleries and modifying existing exhibits. Completed in March 2016, the Sea Lion Gallery project is the most recent construction project to occur at the Southeast Aquarium and serves as the basis for the investigation involved in this thesis. Serving all of the comfort cooling loads throughout the aquarium while maintaining the necessary environmental conditions in each of the exhibit habitats, a chiller plant located in the northwestern corner of the building supplies chilled water to numerous rooftop air handling units, fan coil units, and life support system (LSS) heat exchangers. Analysis of the existing conditions of the central energy plant revealed that the system faces several major challenges affecting the system efficiency, the building’s overall energy use, and the operational costs of the Southeast Aquarium. This report presents this issues associated with the chilled water system and several proposed solutions to mitigate these problems. Additionally, the Southeast Aquarium’s central energy plant includes four standby generators in place to preserve the aquatic environments and ensure guest safety in the event of a grid power failure. The need for reliable, on-site standby electricity generation makes the Southeast Aquarium a unique prospect for a combined heat and power application. In addition to the chiller plant analysis, the following report presents the feasibility of on-site co-generation that would meet the electric and thermal demand of the facility, thus reducing overall Aquarium annual energy costs and emission rates while maintaining resiliency of the necessary emergency electricity production separate from the regional electric grid.