The windy city, infamous for its dark, cold winters, is also home to some of the most brilliant sustainable architecture firms that can be found in the US. From small to big, corporate to independent, these inspiring architecture firms lead the charge in creating a better Earth for everyone through their energy efficient and elegant buildings. What is true of all these architecture firms is their commitment to a friendlier, healthier, and better future for everyone.

1. Booth Hansen

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An overhead shot of “Farm on Ogden” which includes a view of the greenhouse. Booth Hansen ©

As part of the group “Archinect Advocate: Action on Climate Change” Booth Hansen is committed to sustainability. As a specialist in adaptive reuse, they excel in upcycling buildings. Take for example their “Farm on Ogden” project. The former brick building was transformed into an exciting and innovative urban farm that features an aquaponic farm inside a greenhouse. They’ve added their own character into the building and transformed it into an entirely new space for Chicago residents.

2. Gensler

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Located in Heredia, Costa Rica, this building is a poster child of sustainable construction. Gensler ©

As a more established international firm, this architecture giant has an important role to play. Gensler has shown that massive architecture firms can take on the challenge of building sustainably for their clients and they have the projects to show it. Their “Centro de Convenciones de Costa Rica” showcases how well Gensler can integrate local plants and rainwater management systems into a comprehensive building for Costa Rican citizens.

3. Perkin + Will

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Constructed for the University of Washington, this building features vertical solar panels. Perkin + Will ©

Another mega firm, Perkin + Will is another global leader in sustainable architecture. They’ve taken it to the next level, crafting a whole new philosophy called “living design” to attain their livability goals. They also make ample use of software to create simulations of their buildings to measure their energy efficiency before construction ever begins. This allows them to be at the forefront of eco-friendly design.

4. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

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One of their sustainability projects includes a plan to reduce carbon emissions in Chicago. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture ©

AS + GG is yet another large scale architecture firm that is a master of sustainable architecture. One of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture projects is the “Chicago Central Area Decarbonization Plan” which is a multi-faceted plan aimed at making the Chicago area more livable and eco-friendly.

5. Becker Architects

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An example of residential architecture by Becker Architects.Becker Architects ©

Becker Architects is a small firm composed of no more than 7 people, and is a champion of sustainable design. This family business punches above its weight with several sustainable projects under its belt. One of the principal architects at the firm is even LEED AP BD+C certified.

6. Cook Architectural Design Studio

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Although it’s a firm that produces mostly small-scale projects, it still incorporates energy saving technologies into their buildings. Cook Architectural Design Studio ©

Cook Architectural Design Studio, otherwise known as CA/ds, is another small scale firm that specializes in green design. According to its website, with the aid of several “LEED Accredited Professionals embracing Green Technology and energy conserving and sustainable solutions”, CA/ds “have been the recipients of numerous design awards” and prizes.

7. Norsman Architects

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A design plan of a proposed eco-path by Norsman Architects in Illinois. Norsman Architects ©

Perhaps the king of sustainable architecture in Chicago, Norsman Architects is a firm that focuses almost exclusively on green projects. From environmentally responsible adaptive-reuse buildings to sustainable designs, Norsman is the go-to firm for green projects. Their buildings include (but are not limited to) green roofs, passive solar heating, and rainwater collection.

8. Moss

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One of Moss’s many restaurant projects. Their extensive list showcases several impressive projects. Moss ©

If there is an equal to Norsman Architects, it is probably Moss. They are another small firm that specializes in the design, creation, and construction of green architecture. According to their website, they consider “site design, water efficiency, materials and methods, energy and atmosphere, and indoor environmental quality” when they plan building. This extremely thorough design process is what makes them a champion of green design.

9. Wight & Company

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The glass ceilings allow for ample solar penetration which reduces electricity cost.Wight & Company ©

Wight & Company is yet another Chicago based firm with an impressive record with regards to sustainable design. They’ve achieved several LEED Gold certifications as well as net zero energy buildings. Several of their projects are designed from an environmentally friendly point of view which makes them a top candidate for green architecture in Chicago.

10. JGMA

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A graphic depicting some of the sustainable design strategies employed by JGMA.JGMA ©

Founded recently in 2010 by Juan Gabriel Moreno, this firm is already starting to make impressive design projects. Already a huge proponent of sustainable design techniques, JGMA and his team have created buildings just like the “Exploration Institute”, which is designed to utilize natural airflow in place of relying on mechanical equipment. These genius strategies are what make JGMA an upcoming leader in the eco-friendly design field.

What sets these firms apart from other architectural design studios is their commitment to the future of our planet. By taking the steps necessary to design thoughtful, intuitive, and eco-friendly architecture, these architect firms are taking steps to improve not just their community, but the entire world.


Eric Pham is a high school senior in the US with a fascination for the built environment. He believes that with more sustainable designs, architects and planners can change the world and create more eco-friendly urban areas.