Sustainable Design at Iowa City Public Works - Phase I
Iowa City Public Works: Investing in Sustainable Design

The Iowa City Public Works (ICPW) Phase I building has received an Excellence in Energy Efficient Design award through the Commercial New Construction (CNC) program offered by Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy Company in collaboration with energy design assistance provider Willdan. Participating building projects received a CNC program final verification report between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. The top projects selected for an award had the highest kBTU savings percentage in Alliant Energy and MidAmerican’s Energy’s service territory.

Project manager Jesse Bulman shares more information below, including some of the energy efficient features and systems, in a series of questions and answers.


Q: Can you give a brief overview of the new ICPW?

A: The project is located on the south side of Iowa City and acts as a gateway feature into the City. Sandwiched between a City park and a large recreation area, the design team sought to create a vital and highly functional building for the City’s operations. We set out to develop an architectural solution that supported the City’s identity, enhanced the experience between the two municipal recreational areas, and respected a residential development directly east. The City’s functional goals were to create efficiencies, a safe work environment, and to ultimately provide better civic services and value to taxpayers.  Additionally, the design was guided by the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, adopted in September 2018, which details goals to reduce carbon emissions significantly by target years 2030 and 2050. It was important that the project serve as an example of the City’s commitment to the plan and to encourage others to explore energy efficient measures for their buildings. The phase one Public Works project includes space for Streets, Traffic Engineering, and Water Divisions, and modifications to an existing warm storage facility. Future phases will consolidate branches of the Public Works Solid Waste and Equipment Divisions, and Transportation Department.


Q: What do you consider the project’s biggest successes?

A: We worked meticulously to bring value through strategies to reduce operational costs, enhance and create a safer work environment, and provide flexible and adaptable design. We also worked diligently with the construction team and the City to ensure that LEED certification could be realized. The City is currently looking at power purchase agreement (PPA) options for the facility. 


Q: How did collaborative energy modeling assist the project?

A: We used inhouse software coupled with the Commercial New Construction program’s services to help achieve energy reductions. The expertise offered by Willdan and MidAmerican Energy’s commitment to the program helped validate alternative options and strategies to arrive at Architectural and MEP systems that met the budgetary needs and reduced long term operational costs. This service also helped the team to document LEED performance requirements needed for submission. This is a tremendous value to any client, especially an institutional client that will operate a public building for many years.


Q: What are some of the unique features or systems that contribute to energy savings?

A: Energy-efficient and durable high mass wall construction, daylight harvesting via glazing and skylights, LED lighting, destratification systems, ventilation strategies, and the use of VRF systems where cooling was required are some of the many strategies implemented in the project. 


Q: Were there additional costs for including energy efficiency features? How were the costs justified?

A: We looked at high-efficiency MEP systems, and the initial first costs were weighed against long-term operational and lifecycle costs to bring a higher value to the City.


Q: What are some of the specific energy and sustainability goals or certifications that were achieved?

A: The team set out to achieve LEED Silver certification or higher. Currently, we’re on a path to potentially achieve LEED Gold via a PPA, which also helps the City actualize their carbon emission reduction goals.