Iowa City received a 4 stars in 2016.
Iowa City received 4 stars in 2016.
The City of Iowa City was awarded a 4-STAR Community Rating for sustainability excellence on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 by being formally certified in the STAR Community Rating SystemTM (STAR). The city’s approved final score is 484.8, which qualifies Iowa City as a Certified 4-STAR Community and the highest-scored city in the State of Iowa. Iowa City is the fifth community in Iowa and 47th nationwide to achieve certification from STAR Communities, a nonprofit organization that certifies sustainable communities.

Other STAR-Certified Iowa communities include Charles City, Dubuque, Davenport and Des Moines.

Information and data was gathered for the certification application throughout 2015 with the assistance of dozens of city staff members, community partners, state agencies, local and regional governments, and private sector employers. Thank you to all community partners that assisted the City in this effort, especially the Iowa City Area Development Group, Iowa City Community School District, Johnson County and University of Iowa. 

What is the STAR Communities Rating System?

STAR stands for Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities. STAR Communities is a national framework for measuring and advancing local government’s environmental, economic and community efforts to achieve sustainability. 

What does STAR measure?

The STAR Community Rating System is built on a framework of sustainability goals, objectives and evaluation measures. The Rating System is divided into seven thematic sustainability goal areas:

  • Built environment
  • Climate and energy
  • Economy and jobs
  • Education, arts and community
  • Equity and empowerment
  • Health and safety
  • Natural systems

More information on the rating system is available at See how Iowa City ranked by viewing Iowa City's 4-STAR Community Rating guide.

How did Iowa City become a 4-STAR Community?

Communities pursuing STAR certification accumulate points for their achievements that are used to determine their rating. There are three STAR certification levels: 3-STAR Community (200-399 points), 4-STAR Community (400-599 points), and 5-STAR (600+ points).  The city received its final score of 484.8 points and the Certified 4-STAR Community Rating for national excellence in sustainability. Some highlights from the city’s application include:

  • Built environment: Iowa City’s citizens use a variety of transportation options for their commutes to work—56.3 percent drive alone; 29.9 percent bike, walk or use transit; and 20.3 percent bike or walk. Those percentages go well beyond the STAR thresholds—a maximum of 60 percent drive alone; minimum of 25 percent bike, walk or use transit; and minimum of 5 percent bike or walk.
  • Economy and jobs: The economy of Iowa City is seeing growth; 169 new businesses were created between 2011-2013, local sales were up 29.7 percent from 2002-2012, and employment was up 1.4 percent from 2011-2013.
  • Education, arts and community: Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature was reflected in the City’s strong performance in the EAC goal area, receiving 65.3 out of70 points. The city demonstrated that 100 percent of residents live within one mile of a community venue, 59 percent of residents attend a performing arts event annually, and creative industry makes up 5 percent of all businesses.
  • Natural systems:  More than 90 percent of Iowa City’s population is within ½ mile of green infrastructure, such as parks or greenways. 

View Iowa City's full rating profile and STAR Certification Results Report

To learn more about the STAR Community Rating System, visit