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Inside an Energy Assessment at Chicago’s Civic Opera House

Chicago’s landmark Civic Opera House was the vision of Commonwealth Edison founder Samuel Insull, a magnate credited with helping to create an integrated electrical infrastructure in the early 1900s.

But things have changed since Insull’s era. Today, the current owner of the opera house, Lyric Opera of Chicago, is seeking to further its mission by cutting back on energy use and costs.

Elevate Energy visited with Lyric Opera of Chicago on Dec. 17 to perform a free energy assessment and recommend measures that will lower utility bills and promote a healthier environment. The evaluation is part of our buildings service for nonprofit buildings, theaters, and childcare centers. Better options for heating, cooling, water, and lighting have become available since the performance space was renovated in the mid-1990s. Next, we’ll deliver a custom report to identify potential energy efficiency improvements for the Civic Opera House as well as financing options to help offset the cost of any measures that are implemented. Scroll down for photos.

The 3,563-seat auditorium and the backstage areas occupy about a third of the total space of the Civic Opera House, which also includes a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings that operate under separate ownership and were not part of the assessment.

Lyric Opera of Chicago Chief Engineer Stephen Dunford shows Elevate Energy staff a recently installed climate monitoring system.OPERA - 1_Small

Elevate Energy analyst Kate Roberts (center) asks questions about two chiller units.OPERA - 2_Small

A large pipe carries water from the Chicago River into  the basement of the Civic Opera House, where it’s chilled and used to cool the auditorium during performances.OPERA - 3_Small

Elevate Energy Chief of Construction Mark Dunn (left) looks at water pumps with Stephen Dunford. OPERA - 4_Small

Hundreds of incandescent bulbs in the dressing rooms could be replaced with more energy efficient lighting.OPERA - 5_Small

Mark Dunn and Elevate Energy HVAC Specialist Patrick Foley check out the location of temperature sensors in the auditorium with Stephen Dunford.OPERA - 6_Small

We’ve worked with other local arts organizations, including helping WTTW and WFMT reduce their operating costs through more efficient lighting. Ready to schedule a free assessment at your theater or building? Please reach out to us at or 855.372.8377. We’d love to work with you!

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