2015 Mercy High School Distinguished Alumna

Celeste Allen Novak FAIA, LEED ’69 

Mercy High School is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Alumna Award, Celeste Allen Novak FAIA, LEED AP ’69. An accomplished architect, author and educator, Celeste was nominated by classmates and friends for her commendable professional achievements. President Cheryl Delaney Kreger ’66 will present Celeste with the award at Tea for Tuition on April 26, 2015.

Celeste is a nationally recognized leader in sustainability, green building systems, and community planning. With 25 years of experience as a licensed architect, and as principal of her Ann Arbor firm, Celeste Allen Novak Architect PLLC, Celeste has led projects that range from small residential plans to complex initiatives for businesses and neighborhoods.

A large portion of Celeste’s practice is dedicated to non-profits and community organizations. Recently she has been developing a feasibility plan for an old school in Atlanta, Michigan as a community environmental and business training center. She initiated and led sustainability audits for the United Way, resulting in the ability of over 30 organizations throughout Detroit to capture dollars and expand their social missions. She has led numerous national Sustainable Design Assessment Teams that provided expertise for communities such as Tucson and Oklahoma City.

Another priority for Celeste is promoting the concept of sustainability among her peers. As AIA (American Institute of Architects) Regional Director to the National Board from 2005-2007 and as AIA Michigan President, Celeste has garnered support for sustainability from AIA members, allied organizations and communities. She wrote the evaluation of the green rating systems, published by the AIA in 2007, broadening the profession’s understanding of sustainability. From 2008-2014, she served as chair of the AIA Michigan Committee on the Environment. She shares her knowledge through her writing, lectures, workshops, webinars and mentoring.

A prolific author with more than two million online readers, Celeste has written many continuing education courses and has published numerous articles, most notably for Architectural Record and Green Source magazines. In 2012 one of her articles received the Architectural Record Excellence in Advertising Award for the most read continuing education article. She is lead author of the book Designing Rainwater Harvesting Systems Integrating Rainwater into Building Systems (Wiley 2014), which provides practical guidelines for developing a rainwater harvesting strategy, taking into account climate, public policies, environmental impact, and end uses.

Celeste leads by example as an adjunct faculty member at Lawrence Technological University and at Madonna University, including teaching environmental planning in China for Madonna’s outreach program. She collaborated with Fr. Charles Morris to develop a class on sustainability for Madonna University based upon ethics and the model of Saint Francis of Assisi. She has led students in service for nonprofits in Detroit and other communities. One such project is Voices for Earth Justice, whose efforts include community gardening, home repair and sustainable use of land, soil, and water in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit.

Through her passion and practice, Celeste embodies the spirit of Catherine McAuley. Her nomination form noted, “Celeste supports Mercy’s values by living her faith through her vocation. She has said that as Catholics, we have been taught to believe that we need to make a difference. Her focus has been on working to promote sustainable design, which has three main components: environmental, economic and social equity. Her religious beliefs took root at Mercy, initiating her determination to help people, protect the environment and strive for social justice.”

Mercy High School and the Mercy Alumnae Board congratulate Celeste on this meaningful recognition.

Celeste Allen Novak Architect PLLC



  • Sustainability Design, Research and Writing
  • Architectural Design
  • Urban and Regional Planning
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Strategic Facility Planning
  • Marketing


  • Bachelor of Science in Architecture, University of Michigan
  • Masters of Architecture, University of Michigan, CEW Scholar
  • Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University
  • Georgetown University – AIA Leadership certificate program - 2003


  • National AIA Nomination to College of Fellows 2014
  • AIA Huron Valley: Emil Lorch Award 2013
  • AIA Michigan Gold Medal 2012
  • Architectural Record Excellence in Advertising Award
  • National Green House Nursing Home Design Charrette 2008
  • 2008 Hopkins Presidents Award for Service – AIA Huron Valley

Distinguished Alumna Recipients

  • 2005: Arleen Brennan Bonello '56, Noreen McGowan Keating '58, Sister Mary Paulita Walters, RSM '63