Long before there was LEED there was Lois Vitt Sale, FAIA, the retiring Chief Sustainability Officer of Wight & Company. She is a practicing architect and a pioneer of sustainable building design and construction – recognized with the inaugural LEED Fellowship class for being one of “the world’s most distinguished green building professionals.”

Her professional accomplishments include one of the first projects anywhere to earn LEED certification, Illinois’ first and third Net Zero Energy Buildings, and more than 100 other design projects that have earned either the International Living Future Institute’s net zero energy certification, WELL, or PHIUS+ certification.

When asked what historical figure she most identified with in a Crain’s Chicago Business interview for its edition on Notable Women in Sustainability, she acknowledged her career on the cutting edge of what is now a worldwide discipline by naming aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

“Amelia Earhart – a woman who paved new pathways – hers in the sky,” Ms. Sale replied. “Our work in the green building industry requires us to build the path forward. Like Earhart, aviator and feminist, in the world of sustainability, there is no instruction manual for how to be successful at the work we undertake.”

With her signature optimism and perseverance, she has woven high-performance design, sustainable planning and building systems, and construction methods with the least environmental impact into the fabric of Wight’s integrated, multi-disciplinary professional culture of design excellence. “She has driven one of the most important aspects of the firm,” says Wight & Company CEO Mark Wight. “She was sustainable before it was fashionable, and now it’s part and parcel to everything we do. Make no mistake, it wouldn’t have happened without Lois.”

Prior to coming to Wight, Ms. Sale helped the City of Chicago expand its green roof initiative into the private sector, after consulting on former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Water Agenda. Her numerous career-long volunteer leadership positions include chair of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) program working group; long-time co-chair of the Living Architecture Performance Tool initiative; long-time Trustee of The Conservation Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on saving land and rivers and adjunct faculty at Northwestern University. “We’re in an industry where you can really make a difference if you’re paying attention,” says Wight, “and Lois Vitt Sale has made a difference. She has left a profound impact on the industry.”

Pioneering the perspectives and skills for planet-friendly built environments has given Ms. Sale “a life that matters…. Having a positive impact on people in my life both personally and professionally is all the achievement I need.” She has avoided the way of the workaholic: “I prefer to enjoy a balanced life that encompasses family, satisfying enterprise, movement, beauty, and laughter.”

As Wight & Company COO Pat Cermak explains, “Lois not only helped us to see the beauty and the good in the world around us, but also opened our eyes to how we’re destroying that world. And, to see that we have a responsibility here as designers, engineers, and builders to do something about that.”

As Lois Vitt Sale looks ahead to her next chapter, she continues to inspire us with her parting thoughts:

“I’m stepping away from Wight and the building profession to focus on art with a sense of gratitude. I’ve been so fortunate to work at a company that shared my sense of purpose and is willing to push the boundaries on how the built environment can provide places where people thrive while honoring the environment. I leave with a sense of optimism. I will be cheering on the next generation’s successes to reverse the contributions to atmospheric carbon. Powered by clean energy, cars that don’t pollute, communities that are built with healthy low carbon materials; this is the future that is coming, and I will be celebrating each step forward.”

Thank you, Lois!

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A Pioneering Chicago architect is retiring after working on more than 100 green buildings: 'She's a 1st on many levels'