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Iowa’s Commercial New Construction Program: Benefits and Process

September 12th, 2023 | 8 min. read

Iowa’s Commercial New Construction Program: Benefits and Process

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A commercial building is a significant investment with long-term cost implications, and improving performance and lowering energy costs should be key design goals. In Iowa, one way to improve performance is by taking advantage of the Commercial New Construction Program 

Created in partnership with MidAmerican Energy, Alliant Energy, and Willdan, the program helps commercial owners implement energy-efficient design solutions that reduce operating costs. It offers rebates for improved performance and covers the cost of your design team’s involvement. 

Over the years, we’ve guided multiple clients through the program, giving us a thorough understanding of its process and benefits. This article will explain the Commercial New Construction program by answering the following questions: 

  • What is the program? 
  • What projects qualify? 
  • What financial incentives do you receive? 
  • How does the process work? 

After reading, you will better understand if the program fits your project and goals. 

What is the Commercial New Construction Program? 

The Commercial New Construction Program is a way for Iowa’s major utility providers to encourage energy-efficient design measures. It provides complimentary design assistance and financial incentives for improving building performance. 

Unlike other energy rebate programs, the Commercial New Construction program gives rebates for holistic design solutions. Financial incentives are based on total building performance. The outcome is a win-win that reduces operating costs for building owners and energy usage for utility providers. 

Willdan, an energy consulting firm, facilitates the program and provides design assistance. The collaborative process between you, your design team, and Willdan leads to a stronger project, with customized solutions to fit your goals.

It also gives owners an understanding of costs and payback periods. You should walk away knowing how long it will take to make up the cost of an energy-efficient investment. If you have specific energy goals, the program can help you weigh your options and find the most cost-effective way to achieve the desired outcome. 

What Projects Qualify? 

To qualify, the project must be new construction, an addition, or a major renovation with mechanical system replacement. The project must also be over 5,000 square feet. 

Although residential projects do not qualify, the program fits a variety of typologies, including schools, university buildings, athletic facilities, and offices. Recently, we used the program on our Iowa City studio renovation. 

The building’s utility provider must also be a participant in the program. Buildings that receive energy from MidAmerican and Alliant Energy qualify. 

What Financial Incentives Do You Receive?   

The program is complimentary, providing design assistance at no added cost to the owner. It covers the cost of Willdan’s services and the involvement of your design team.

Its rebates are based on the building’s performance and can be significant depending on the outcome. For our Iowa City studio renovation, we are estimating a rebate of nearly $1,500. We have also seen larger projects achieve rebates in the $400,000 range.  

In addition to initial rebates, owners can enjoy long-term energy savings from improved performance. 

How Does the Process Work? 

Iowa’s Commercial New Construction program is most effective in the earliest stages of the design process. Owners should apply well before any decisions are set in stone. 

Your architect can assist with the online application, which includes questions about the utility provider, construction schedule, and project delivery method. The application will also ask if you plan to use a building certification system and if you have any specific energy goals. 

Once enrolled, Willdan will work with you and your design team to develop solutions. You will attend group meetings to discuss your options for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in addition to confirming characteristics of the building enclosure affecting performance. 

Wildan will perform energy modeling to inform all the strategies considered, including wall and assembly performance. Although the program focuses on large-scale systems, you may dive into more detailed decisions like insulation and window glazing options. 

The goal is to find solutions that fit your project and its goals. Through collaborative discussions, the best solutions will rise to the top.

Toward the end of the process, you and your design team will reach a consensus about which strategies to implement. Your architect will then submit plans before construction to verify the final design includes the discussed strategies.   

Wildan will also visit the site during construction for additional verification. Once construction is complete, you can receive your rebate. 

Learn More About Building Performance 

Iowa’s Commercial New Construction program gives you access to a team of experts at no additional cost. Its process helps you find project-specific solutions that lower your energy costs and carbon emissions. In addition to long-term savings, you receive a rebate for implementing energy-efficient strategies. 

To learn more about the Commercial New Construction program, follow the link to the program’s website.  

While some energy efficiency measures can come at a premium, you can make up the cost through utility savings. Your design team should help you understand the Return on Investment (ROI) for the implemented strategies. 

Nearly every design decision has a long-term cost implication. Some materials, for example, present higher maintenance and replacement costs than others. A life cycle cost analysis can help you compare long-term costs to initial spending.

Learn more by reading about life-cycle cost analyses and how they benefit your project.