Governor's Mansion gets green certification

First lady Diana Rauner cheers Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation for ‘People’s House’

The $15 million renovation of the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield has resulted in LEED certification as a green building. (Facebook/Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association)

The $15 million renovation of the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield has resulted in LEED certification as a green building. (Facebook/Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association)

By Ted Cox

The Rauners’ $15 million privately funded renovation of the Governor’s Mansion got a final honor during their term in office Thursday when the state’s first lady announced the building had received a top environmental honor.

Diana Rauner announced Thursday that the rehabilitated “People’s House” had received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification, a top award for green buildings.

“Achieving LEED Silver certification is an accomplishment of which the entire state can be proud,” Rauner said. According to the Governor’s Office, she spearheaded the project as chairwoman of the nonprofit, privately funded Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association. “Our mission to fully renovate the ‘People’s House’ has come to fruition, focusing on history and art while preserving the Mansion for future generations,” Rauner added. “We accomplished that while utilizing the existing structure and materials, taking advantage of its existing urban site, and selecting sustainable and energy efficient products available from all over Illinois.”


“Our mission to fully renovate the ‘People’s House’ has come to fruition.”

Diana Rauner (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

As part of the rehab, plumbing fixtures were replaced with water-saving fixtures, light fixtures were converted to light-emitting-diode bulbs, and air units were replaced or rebuilt “to achieve lower energy use while providing better comfort.”

Lead architect Philip Hamp said the certification “completed a successful renovation and delivered an energy-efficient landmark building to the citizens of Illinois.”

Built before the Civil War in 1855, the Governor’s Mansion is one of the oldest in the nation still in use, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. But it had fallen into disrepair by the time Gov. Bruce Rauner took office four years ago.

Gov. Rauner and the first lady set the mansion’s renovation as a top priority, but emphasized that government funds would not be spent on it. The $15 million was raised privately by the Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association.

Yet, as Gov. Rauner prepares to step down with the inauguration of Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker on Monday, the LEED certification at the Governor’s Mansion as a public-relations coup has to be weighed against the way he oversaw staff cuts at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, with fewer pollution cases being referred to the state attorney general as a result. The IEPA was also slow to respond to the attorney general’s call for emissions data at the Sterigenics facilities in Willowbrook identified last summer as being responsible for a cancer cluster in the area. Rauner has owned a stake in Sterigenics through investments.

Rauner also tried to loosen emissions regulations on coal-powered energy plants, a move rebuffed by his own Illinois Pollution Control Board about a month before the November election.

Groups like the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter have been persistent critics of Rauner’s environmental policies. The Sierra Club charged that Rauner “boasted of his coal, oil, and fracking priorities” while in office.

Pritzker said after winning the election in November that he and his wife, M.K. Pritzker, would live part time in the mansion, while commuting back to their home in the Chicago area, where their teenage children attend school.