Museums & Zoos Retrofit


The Museums & Zoos Retrofit initiative will design and fund a comprehensive energy efficiency upgrade program for the City’s zoos and Museums in the Parks, a coalition of 11 museums that attracts eight million visitors every year and serves as the number one attraction for Illinois tourism. 



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Open Bid

Museums & Zoos Retrofit Details

Museum and Zoo operators in Chicago have a strong desire to make critical infrastructure upgrades to aging building systems, but may not want to threaten their credit ratings, raise philanthropic capital, or use their bonding capacity for projects with positive, project financeable return on investment (ROI). The Trust has received an unsolicited proposal to perform energy efficiency upgrades for these organizations’ physical buildings using a service agreement model that would ensure organizational budget, balance sheet, and credit neutrality.

Leveraging the success of the Municipal Buildings Retrofit, the Trust intends to assist the City’s Museums and Zoos to implement similarly cost-effective, environmentally friendly energy upgrades through these pay-for-performance service contracts. Under this model, the Museums and Zoos may extend their borrowing capacity through off-credit, off-balance sheet transactions that do not monopolize debt capacity, are budget-neutral or cost-saving, and provide long-term, tax-exempt debt (issued by the Trust) to lower capital costs and complete more projects.

The Trust will work across 10+ Museum and Zoo organizations to aggregate these retrofit projects, thereby increasing scale, lowering transaction costs, improving economics, and quickening the pace of project development.


User Experience

  • Elevates comfort and visitor satisfaction
  • Improves worker productivity
  • Improves lighting
  • Improves indoor air quality
  • Increases reliability of operations
  • Increases safety
  • Improves occupant health


  • Achieves Mayor’s 2015 Sustainability Goal #3 to improve citywide energy efficiency by 5%
  • Achieves 20%+ reduction in annual energy use and reduces GHG emissions and pollution


  • Achieves Mayor’s 2015 Sustainability Goal #2 – Accelerate the economy in Chicago by assisting people and companies in adopting sustainable practices
  • Creates jobs
  • Reduces operating costs
  • Hedges against rising energy costs
  • Increases property value
  • Transaction has zero upfront cost and is off-credit / off-balance sheet to the Museum or Zoo, with private investors assuming financing and performance risk


  • City of Chicago leads by example for other cities and counties across the state
  • City of Chicago enables commercial and not-for-profit building owners to follow City’s lead in retrofit efforts


In addition to these benefits, the Trust values several of the proposal’s key attributes and encourages additional proposals to include information on the following:

1) Budget impact – The proposed project would be paid for entirely out of the energy savings it would create in the buildings of the Museum and Zoo organizations. A free Phase I audit is provided, and then the investment-grade energy audit costs and any maintenance costs or energy savings guarantees are rolled into overall project financing.

2) Transaction structure – The project could be financed in one or more manners that would be off-credit and off-balance sheet to the Museums and Zoos. Please include a proposed term sheet for one or more of these acceptable structure(s) in your proposal.

3) Energy savings risk – Neither the Museums, Zoos, nor Chicago’s taxpayers would be asked to take any of the energy savings risk associated with the project. Clear delineations should be made for how weather, occupancy, behavior, and other risks are dealt with and which parties are responsible for each of these risks.

4) Cost of capital – The total cost of capital – including financing, closing fees, and on-going fees/guarantees – for the project is low for indicative institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Field Museum. Financier makes use of tax-exempt debt issuance ability of Trust as an “on-behalf-of issuer” of the City of Chicago. Financier should be willing to be responsible for investment-grade audit costs if project later falls through due to increased price spread over 10-year bonds versus an offered spread today.

5) Contract term – The maximum contract length for this project is sufficiently long so as to provide for deep energy efficiency upgrades.

6) Energy conservation measure costs – Sophisticated materials & labor procurement methodology results in low indicative pricing.

7) Roles & responsibilities – Example operations & maintenance as well as monitoring & verification responsibilities are well defined.

8) Counterparties – The balance sheets of counterparties are strong. They have long operational histories and strong track records of successful projects in this space. They have experience with off-credit Service Agreement contract structures.

9) MBE / WBE Participation – Willingness to meet or exceed the Trust’s exacting requirements for incorporation of minority-, women-, disabled person-, and veteran-owned businesses which are enumerated in our Procurement Manual.


Open Bidding Process

As the Trust and the City are committed to performing cost-effective upgrades on Museum and Zoo buildings that improve the lives of our City’s residents, the Trust is commencing an Open Bidding Process on this proposal.

Any party that wishes to offer its proposal for an energy efficient Museums and Zoos project is invited to do so at by April 13, 2015 at 12 PM CT. If the Trust receives additional proposals from interested parties (other than the proponent of the initial unsolicited proposal) as a result of this open bidding process, it will select the best candidate(s) from the pool of interested parties. All interested parties are encouraged to apply and to clearly state their scope of work, capabilities and qualifications for participating in such a transaction.

The proposal must include at least one (1) financial partner capable of financing the transaction, preferably in an off-credit and off-balance sheet structure such as an ESA, MESA, or Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan. Interested financial partners may also respond independently to this proposal if they choose, but should list any restrictions they may have on engineering or contracting partners whose projects they are willing to finance.

Museums & Zoos Retrofit Timeline


Open Bidding Process commences.


Open Bidding Process closes with six additional proposals submitted.

Museums & Zoos Retrofit News