Top 10 LEED-Certified Buildings in Illinois in 2019

10 min read

Chicago’s Wacker Drive is an architectural paradise with exceptional attention to green building practices. But sustainability goes beyond Wacker Drive.

Advancing further along our journey in assembling the country’s most notable buildings that received the highest levels of LEED certifications in 2019, we’ve made our next stop in Illinois. The Midwestern state continued to make good strides in embracing sustainable building practices. After an exceptional 2018, when it came in at No. 1 on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Top 10 States for LEED list, it occupied the second position in the agency’s ranking for LEED certification in 2019.

In early July 2020, Illinois had a total of 727 LEED-certified or recertified buildings at the Gold and Platinum levels. Of these, 50 received the designation in 2019, five fewer than in 2018. Half of the awarded projects were office properties and the other half included multiple property types such as education and medical facilities, single-family homes, and hospitality and retail assets. We’re taking a closer look at LEED-certified office buildings and sorting them based on their scorecards. Check out our findings in the list below, with some details about each project.

Project Name Street Points Achieved Certification Level Certification Date
111 South Wacker 111 S. Wacker Drive 83 Platinum 9/10/2019
One North Wacker 1 N. Wacker Drive 82 Platinum 1/29/2019
71 South Wacker 71 S. Wacker Drive 82 Platinum 7/19/2019
550 West Washington 550 W. Washington Blvd. 82 Platinum 4/29/2019
The Wrigley Building – Perkins + Will Office 410 N. Michigan Ave. 81 Platinum 10/24/2019
191 North Wacker 191 N. Wacker Drive 81 Platinum 8/20/2019
Willis Tower 233 S. Wacker Drive 80 Platinum 11/15/2019
River Point 444 W. Lake St. 45 Platinum 1/30/2019
One South Wacker 1 S. Wacker Drive 67 Gold 12/16/2019
151 North Franklin 151 N. Franklin St. 64 Gold 1/30/2019

1. 111 South Wacker – LEED Platinum

111 South Wacker

Built in 2005 and designed by Goettsch Partners, the Metzler Real Estate-owned asset rises 51 stories high in the metro’s central business district, an area filled with green buildings that hold USGBC recognition. Last September, 111 South Wacker was LEED recertified to the Platinum level with a scorecard totaling 83 points. The building also holds the Energy Star label.

The project has been at the forefront of LEED certification. Upon its completion 15 years ago, it became the first speculative, high-rise office development awarded LEED Gold in the Core & Shell category. As LEED certification is not permanent, the 1.1 million-square-foot office tower has maintained its commitment to green practices throughout the years, surpassing the LEED Gold level in 2016, when it received its first LEED Platinum award for Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance.

Property upgrades included a smart building upgrade system that allows for energy-saving adjustments to be made in real time; a revamp of the plumbing system that reduces water usage to 37 percent below the baseline for LEED-certified office buildings, saving more than 2.2 million gallons annually; and a waste reduction program, which recycles more than half of the waste stream from landfills.


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According to Yardi Matrix data, Metzler Real Estate acquired the asset in December 2005 from The John Buck Co. for $386 million, with help from a $274 million loan held by Hamburg Commercial Bank. Tenants in the office tower include Deloitte, Bloomberg, Bank of China and Harbor Capital Advisors.

2. One North Wacker – LEED Platinum

One North Wacker

Also known as the UBS Tower, this 51-story property was built in 2001 by The John Buck Co. with Goettsch Partners as the architect. Last year it was awarded LEED Platinum certification with 82 score points.

The asset also holds a Wired Platinum certification and is Energy Star-rated. Its first LEED certification dates back to 2008 and was recertified to the Gold level in 2010 and 2015. Sustainable features include low-VOC paint throughout the core and shell, carbon dioxide monitoring, a high-performance curtain wall exterior, abundant daylighting and a green roof.

Irvine Co. has owned the asset since 2015, when it acquired it from Hines for nearly $471 million with support from a $350 million loan originated by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., according to Yardi Matrix data. Notable tenants include UBS, NASDAQ, Fitch Ratings, PwC, Northwestern Mutual and JMD Investments.

3. 71 South Wacker – LEED Platinum

71 South Wacker

Standing 48 stories tall, the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners-designed tower opened in 2005. Even though the development was not originally designed to meet LEED standards, in 2006 it got its first LEED certification, and in July 2019, with a scorecard totaling 82 points, it received the LEED Platinum designation. Formerly named Hyatt Center, the building also holds a Toby award and is Energy Star-rated.

The development has consistently been reducing energy consumption and features abundant daylighting, a 17,000-square-foot green roof, an interior bamboo forest and a carbon dioxide monitoring system. LED strips replaced the incandescent fixtures in the elevators and more than 1,200 fixtures throughout the building were replaced with more energy-efficient ones. Installing variable frequency drives on the chiller and water pumps in tune with the HVAC platform led to additional energy reduction.

Irvine Co. added 71 South Wacker to its portfolio in 2010. It acquired the asset from PSP Capital Partners for $625 million, according to Yardi Matrix data. The tower’s tenants include IBM, Milliman, Banner & Witcoff, Colliers International and Goldman Sachs.

4. 550 West Washington – LEED Platinum

550 West Washington

Built two decades ago, the 16-story midrise maintained its LEED Platinum status, scoring 82 points in April 2019. The prior LEED Platinum certifications were achieved in 2009 and 2014. The Energy Star-rated building–part of the city’s Retrofit Chicago program–reduced its energy usage by 25 percent in just three years.

The engineering staff and the management team at 550 West Washington are LEED green associates who participate in classes focused on green concepts for the building. The property’s tenants also participate in recycling seminars, electronic waste recycling events and other ecocentric events.

MetLife Real Estate Investment acquired the property in 2013 from Beacon Capital Partners for almost $111 million. Tenants in the building include Health Data & Management Solutions, Co-Optim, Marco Consulting Group and Raymond James.

5. The Wrigley Building – LEED Platinum

The Wrigley Building

Located at 400-410 Michigan Ave., the two-tower development was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White in Spanish Colonial Revival style. It was completed in phases–the 30-story south tower in 1921, and the 21-story north tower three years later. The towers are connected by two skybridges. Throughout the last decade, the iconic development has held LEED Silver and Gold certifications and last year it earned LEED Platinum status, with a scorecard totaling 81 points for a 55,000 square foot component.

To achieve the certification, the complex’s operating systems were reconstructed, including the installation of water-efficient plumbing fixtures and an energy management system that reduces energy output during evenings and weekends, as well as a white roof, which lowers the energy use through the reduction of seasonal heating and air conditioning. Energy-efficient lighting and lighting occupancy sensors were installed, and a recycling program–which includes e-waste recycling efforts–was implemented.


READ ALSO: Top 10 LEED-Certified Buildings in Texas in 2019


According to Yardi Matrix data, the building’s current owner is a private investor who purchased the property from Zeller Realty Group in 2018 for $255 million with aid from a $150 million loan from New York Life Insurance Co. Notable tenants include NAREIM, Perkins & Will, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Aerogen and The Maude Group.

6. 191 North Wacker – LEED Platinum

191 North Wacker

Chicago’s Lantern Building was designed in 2002 by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates on the site of the former Sauganash Hotel. The 37-story tower was LEED recertified to the Platinum level in August 2019 with a scorecard of 81 points, following LEED Gold and LEED Platinum certifications awarded in 2010 and 2015, respectively.

Allianz Real Estate acquired an 80 percent ownership stake in the property in 2014, as part of a portfolio transaction with Manulife Investment Management. Facebook has offices in the building, along with William Harris Investors, Prism Global Advisors, Heitman and NXT Capital.

7. Willis Tower – LEED Platinum

Willis Tower. Image courtesy of EQ Office

One of Chicago’s most famous buildings, the 110-story Willis Tower, was the world’s tallest building for almost 25 years. These days, the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill-designed project holds a new title—the largest U.S. building to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency—having earned the LEED Platinum certification for a total of 80 points, just one year after achieving the Gold-level designation.

The most recent recertification followed a $500 million Gensler-led renovation and consisted of upgrades to the building’s heating and cooling systems, the introduction of LED lights throughout the property, comprehensive water-efficiency measures, and a complete retrofit of the HVAC system. These upgrades reduced the property’s energy consumption by 20 percent and is estimated to cut water consumption by approximately 30 percent.

Blackstone Group—the tower’s current owner—paid $1.3 billion to American Landmark Properties in 2015. The skyscraper is anchored by United Airlines. Other tenants include Environmental Systems Design, Fidelity Capital Markets and Oracle.

8. River Point Park – LEED Platinum

River Point Park

The 52-story office tower at 444 W. Lake St. is a fairly new addition to Chicago’s skyline, completed in 2017 after four years in construction, with Pickard Chilton as the architect and Hines as the developer. From the early development stages, the project was designed to achieve LEED Gold recognition. In January 2019, it received LEED Platinum certification with 45 points out of a total 62 points under LEED’s v2.0 version.

River Point’s curved facade captures natural light for the interior and offers panoramic views overlooking the Chicago River, the city’s skyline and Lake Michigan, and the curtain wall is covered in low-E vision glass with spandrel glass. The HVAC system has digitally controlled variable air volume boxes on each floor with electric heat at the perimeter, and a PC-based control system provides increased efficiency and comfort. The building also features a stormwater management system, a green roof and 1.5 acres of open space, which is the largest waterfront plaza in downtown. Notable tenants include DLA Piper, Servcorp, Allstate, Capital Group and McDermott Will & Emery.

9. One South Wacker – LEED Gold

One South Wacker

The skyscraper has stood 40 stories tall since 1982, flaunting Murphy/Jahn architecture. The latest recognition from USGBC came last December when the asset was LEED Gold recertified with a scorecard of 67 points.

In 2013, under Harbor Group International’s ownership, the property entered a major renovation that included the mezzanine, the atrium and plaza, as well as the lobby and common areas. As a result, the following year, One South Wacker was awarded its first LEED Gold designation. The next owner, Manulife Investment Management, also invested in the 1.2 million-square-foot building, implementing energy-efficient equipment and systems, advanced building controls, high-performance building enclosures and reduced waste generation.

According to Yardi Matrix data, Manulife sold the property in 2018 to The 601W Cos. for $310 million, with aid from an acquisition and development loan funded by The Blackstone Group. Notable tenants in the tower include Invenergy, Charles River Associates, Stout Risius Ross, Avison Young, Dow Jones and JLL.

10. 151 North Franklin – LEED Gold

151 North Franklin

Also known as the CNA Building, the 35-story tower is another new addition to Chicago’s skyline. Developer John Buck finalized the John Ronan-designed development in 2018. In January 2019, the high-rise was awarded LEED Gold with a scorecard of 64 points.

The building features a heat-reflecting glass curtain wall on a solid stone base, a rooftop sky garden, a landscaped terrace on the second floor and a three-story covered plaza. An integrated building system enables easy control to security, access, temperature and lighting. The tower also benefits from a supplemental solar electrical system.  

The building’s tenants are CNA, Facebook, Hinshaw & Culbertson, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

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