17th Annual Emerald Awards for Green Building in Illinois Announced

2022 Awardees Reflect the Leadership of Municipalities and Nonprofits in Net Zero Buildings

Chicago, IL — Illinois Green Alliance announced the recipients of this year’s Emerald Awards, dubbed the 2022 Path to Zero Heroes, for their ongoing efforts to mainstream net zero buildings in Illinois.  

The Illinois Green Alliance Emerald Awards were launched in 2008 and today reflect the focus on making Illinois a national leader in net zero actions that reduce carbon pollution. This year, one individual and one organization are being honored for their continued commitment and advocacy in advancing high performance, cutting-edge existing and new construction buildings. 

“These leaders are laying the foundation necessary to decarbonize every building in Illinois by demonstrating net zero technology is feasible in any building and in any neighborhood,” said Brian Imus, Executive Director of Illinois Green. “These leaders are reducing carbon pollution in their community while improving health, comfort, and well-being and showing Illinois is a leader in net zero building design and technology.” 

“These leaders are reducing carbon pollution in their community while improving health, comfort, and well-being and showing Illinois is a leader in net zero building design and technology.” 

Brian Imus

Executive Director, Illinois Green Alliance

Lesley Showers, this year’s Path to Zero Hero honoree for individual leadership, currently serves as the Executive Director of the Institute of Cultural Affairs and has spent more than a decade leading the restoration of GreenRise, the organization’s headquarters and a historic 1921 Chicago Landmark in the Uptown neighborhood.

The building not only houses 19 nonprofits and social service agencies, making it the largest nonprofit social service center in the Midwest, Ms. Showers has turned the building into a living laboratory to inspire action across the region. Building on lessons learned, she is now working to share her experience to reduce the energy burden of nonprofits and affordable housing buildings.  

Ms. Showers has proven a truly passionate leader for climate action by volunteering her time to educate the broader green building industry, speaking at conferences and serving as a board member of the Phius Alliance Chicago Chapter.


The Park District of Oak Park will be honored this year as the Organizational Emerald Award.  Since 2014, the Park District has prioritized investment in a holistic approach to sustainability that involves waste reduction, energy efficiency, clean energy, and water conservation and reuse. The Park District’s sustainability actions are saving over $200,000 by reducing their energy and water.


Most recently, the Park District’s Carroll Center became the second verified net zero facility in all of Illinois. The Carroll Center was constructed using Passive House design principles, which are used to attain a quantifiable and rigorous level of energy efficiency, including superinsulation and airtight construction along with continuous ventilation to achieve a comfortable building temperature year-round. The building not only generates more energy than it uses, but offsets all the energy for the entire park site. 


Also, they are currently halfway through construction on a 40,000 sq. ft. community recreation center that is all electric and will be net zero. This leadership demonstrates the feasibility and affordability of building decarbonization and the role Illinois municipalities can play in scaling net zero design and construction.

“All communities deserve the benefits of the sustainable building technology that we know have a real impact on people’s lives,” said Keara Fanning, Illinois Green’s 2022 Board Chair. “By going above and beyond, this year’s Emerald Award honorees are inspiring decarbonization action in often overlooked buildings like schools, community centers and affordable housing. They are showing net zero strategies are possible in any building type and in any neighborhood.” 


This year, the Emerald Award Ceremony will also be an opportunity to share an update to Illinois Green Alliance’s Net Zero Honor Roll and Watch List, an initiative to raise awareness to the buildings achieving the highest level of green building certifications around net zero energy, carbon, water, and waste. Currently there are 3 buildings that are verified net zero energy and 12 net zero projects in development.    


The public is invited to celebrate these sustainability achievements at Illinois Green’s annual Limelight Reception on October 6 at 333 N. Green Street in the Fulton Market area. Tickets to the event and presentation of the Emerald Awards are available online. For more information regarding Limelight, contact Maggie Olson at 312-245-8300 x.205 or visit www.illinoisgreenalliance.org. 


About Illinois Green Alliance 

Illinois Green Alliance is a membership directed nonprofit organization working to transform the region’s built environment to become ecologically sustainable, profitable, and healthy. To do so, we engage community leaders and utilize member expertise in education and community outreach through targeted programs and initiatives focused around green homes, communities, schools and existing buildings. With hundreds of passionate members and volunteers who lend their time and expertise, Illinois Green provides nearly 75 educational programs, community engagement events, tours and advocacy initiatives each year.