The Limelight and the Emerald Awards Reception has been rescheduled to October 7, 2021. By rescheduling, we will be able to ensure an amazing celebration recognizing Illinois’ latest achievements in green building design, technology, and innovation.

The 2021 Emerald Awardees will be announced at Limelight on October 7. Buy your ticket now.

2021 Emerald Awards Guidelines

The Illinois Green Alliance Emerald Awards, launched in 2008, recognizes outstanding individual or organizational achievement helping to put Illinois on a path to 100% net zero buildings by 2050. Each year awardees are determined by the Illinois Green Alliance governing board and honor the industry influencers, advocates, and thought leadership advancing net zero design, technology, and policy. The Board shall solicit names for consideration and others are encouraged to suggest names for consideration via the Illinois Green Alliance website. No past Emerald Award winner, nor any current Illinois Green Alliance Board member is eligible to be considered.

The Emerald Award for Leadership in New Construction
This award acknowledges and celebrates exemplary leadership that has had a significant and positive impact on advancing the theory and practice of high performance in the design and construction of new buildings. This award may be granted to an individual or organization that has a well-documented and long-term track record of influence on the advancement of green buildings in Illinois. This may be represented in any combination of ways, including the design and construction of buildings, the promotion and education of best practices within the industry, and outreach to the public and policy makers. Priority is given to the practices, education, and policy development focused on net zero.

The Emerald Award for Leadership in Building Retrofits
This award acknowledges and celebrates exemplary leadership that has had a significant and positive impact on advancing the theory and practice of high performance in the retrofitting and operation of existing buildings. This award may be granted to an individual or organization that has a well-documented and long-term track record of influence on the advancement of green buildings in Illinois. This may be represented in any combination of ways, including the retrofit and operation of buildings, the promotion and education of best practices within the industry, and outreach to the public and policy makers. Priority is given to the practices, education, and policy development focused on net zero.

Emerging Leader Award
This award acknowledges an individual who is under 35 and has recently made influential action towards the advancement of sustainability in buildings, and specifically net zero.

In addition to the Emerald Awards, this year we will introduce the new Net Zero Honor Roll, to showcase all buildings in Illinois that are working towards or have been certified net zero.

The Net Zero Building Honor Roll Context and Guidelines

The Illinois Green Alliance Net Zero Honor Roll recognizes any building in Illinois that achieves a net zero certified designation. Buildings are only eligible if they receive one of the following third party certifications: LEED Zero (Carbon, Energy, Water, Waste); PHIUS Zero; ILFI Zero Carbon, Zero Energy. Illinois Green may provide special mention of projects pursing one of these certifications each year but is not eligible for Honor Roll status until officially certified. If your project has received one of these certifications and would like to join the Net Zero Honor Roll, please let us know by emailing us at info@illinoisgreenalliance.org


Consider demonstrating your commitment to green buildings by sponsoring Illinois Green Alliance’s work to promote green buildings and sustainable communities for all.

Learn more about how to support this event through sponsorship.

2020 Emerald Award Winners

Samantha Bingham

Emerald Award for Individual Leadership

Samantha Bingham, the City of Chicago’s Clean Transportation Program Director, has been honored with the Emerald Award for Individual Leadership. Sam’s impact in advancing cleaner fuels and new technologies is fact across the region as the Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition (CACC), a U.S. DOE designated coalition. In her role as the CACC Coordinator, Sam works with vehicle fleets, fuel providers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to save energy and promote the use of domestic fuels and advanced vehicle technologies in transportation across the six-county Chicagoland region. She sought funding and developed the incentive programs that successfully encouraged additional investments and policy changes for further deployments of alternative fuel and electric vehicles and fueling infrastructure throughout the Chicagoland region.


Howard Learner

Emerald Award for Organizational Leadership

Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, has been recognized for the organization’s decades-long achievement in advancing meaningful sustainability policy in Illinois and across the Midwest. Under Howard’s leadership, ELPC has been a leader in the Illinois community ranging from advocating and implementing the first utility energy efficiency programs to passing the first Illinois RPS, driving solar and wind policy in the early acceleration days, to energy efficient green building codes in Cook County, Chicago and the State of Illinois to thought leadership on accelerating and growing Illinois’ green economy.


Chicago Housing Authority Altgeld Resource Center

Emerald Award for Community Impact

The Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Family Resource Center was recognized with the Emerald Award for Community Impact. The KOO designed building targets a LEED Gold rating and provides space for a childcare center, community center, and a full-service Chicago Public Library within a dramatic, undulating brick facade. The building is located in a community where the nearest police station is five miles away, the nearest full-service grocery is four miles away, and the closest full-service public library is about three miles away. Remediation was critical for a development that for years was known as the “toxic doughnut” due to being surrounded by 50 landfills and 382 industrial facilities, including the Acme Steel Plant. The building achieves nearly 70% energy savings over baseline through a combination of passive and active strategies.


Pepper Construction’s Net Zero Trailer

Emerald Award for Green Innovation

With a zero carbon footprint, the trailer is clad in cement fiber panels which reduce heat absorption. To further increase energy efficiency and eliminate temperature swings, the envelope features a robust thermal barrier with double the insulation values in a conventional Class A office building. Atop the structure, 27 photovoltaic panels produce all the electricity needed to power the trailer for a full workday from just four hours of sunlight.