About the Sustainability Division  

Iowa City is committed to being a leader in sustainable community development. The City of Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator, Brenda Nations, helps ensure that Iowa City's public services and planning efforts are rooted in sustainable principles.

Iowa City's 4-STAR Community Rating 

The City of Iowa City received a 4-STAR Community Rating for sustainability excellence by being formally certified in the STAR Community Rating System, or Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities. 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. Iowa City is the fifth community in Iowa and 47th nationwide to achieve certification from STAR Communities, a nonprofit organization that certifies sustainable communities.

STAR is the nation’s leading framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, encompassing social, economic and environmental performance measures. STAR helps communities evaluate strengths and weaknesses.

Iowa City will continue to make improvements to its sustainability efforts with help and guidance from STAR Communities. 

Sustainable Iowa City Newsletter 

Stay up to date with sustainability news in Iowa City by subscribing to receive the Sustainable Iowa City Newsletter.

Visit, then enter your e-mail and check the sustainability box. 

Current Issue: June 2017

View past issues to learn about other sustainability projects happening in Iowa City. 

Sustainability Information & Initiatives 


Sustainability Report

The City of Iowa City is committed to improving quality of life through sustainability practices that promote social well-being, environmental health and economic stability. The City Council identified sustainability and inclusivity as overarching goals in its most recent strategic plan, and this report summarizes our 2015 sustainability highlights, as well as initiatives that will be undertaken in 2016.

Climate Projections

The City of Iowa City, in an effort to better prepare for the coming impacts of climate change, has been coordinating with climatologists to predict how we might be affected. This report shows the findings of the study. 

Greenhouse Gas Update

The City's Sustainability Office issues this report to update residents on the success of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Community emissions have been tracked annually since 2008. The City Council has identified sustainability as an important goal in its most recent strategic plan, and is committed to improving our quality of life through sustainability practices.

Natural Areas of Iowa City

The City of Iowa City owns almost 1,000 acres of natural areas consisting of prairie, wetlands, forest and riparian areas.

The Natural Areas brochure is a reference guide with information and locations of areas. Our 2016 Natural Areas Report contains more information about the native plant communities owned and managed by the City of Iowa City.

Plant Guide - East Side Recycling Center

More than 60 native plant species, with names like Shooting Star, Prairie Sundrops, Side Oats Grama, Windflower, and Queen of the Prairie, are showcased in the gardens at the East Side Recycling Center (ESRC). These plants not only provide colorful blooms from April through October, but also help educate visitors about the role prairie plants play in controlling stormwater runoff. The ESRC, located at 2401 Scott Blvd. SE in Iowa City, incorporates several biocells, which were built to capture stormwater after a rain. Each biocell includes a variety of plants whose deep roots absorb the water, thereby helping to prevent flooding. This list of native plants includes information on the many plant varieties available for viewing at the ESRC, including their height, color, and bloom time. Stop by to enjoy the plants in bloom and purchase some of your favorite varieties for your own garden! 

Sustainability Assessment

This assessment identifies specific indicators that coordinate with the vision and broad set of goals set forth in IC2030, Iowa City’s most recent Comprehensive Plan and the City’s Strategic Plan. The indicators will act as a source of information for the next step of this process: the development of sustainability goals and targets.

Monthly Sustainability SpotlightTim Hennes 
Tim Hennes, Senior Building Inspector

Tim Hennes is the Senior Building Inspector for Neighborhood and Development Services. 

What does sustainability mean to you?  

For me sustainability is about making the most efficient use of resources to accomplish a particular need. Sustainability is also designing a building for everyone regardless of physical needs which promotes continued use and occupancy of the building.

How is sustainability incorporated into your position?  

My position deals with the built environment and gives me the opportunity to participate and experience many different areas of  sustainability.  New buildings are being built with higher efficient mechanical equipment and appliances,  higher insulation values, and materials made from recycled products which, in some case are straighter and stronger. 

Also, the Building Inspection Division has worked to eliminate paper by requiring almost all permit applications and plans be submitted electronically, as well as inspection reports to contractors and clients.

What actions have you taken to improve sustainability within your position? 

  • Through enforcement of the International Energy Conservation Code which new buildings and additions to new buildings are required to meet. The intent of the International Energy Conservation Code is to regulate the design and construction of buildings for the effective use and conservation of energy over the useful life of each building.
  • Through utilization of the International Existing Building Code, which encourages the use and reuse of existing buildings while requiring reasonable upgrades and improvements for the health, safety and welfare of the occupants.
  • Continually looking for ways to incorporate technology into the daily workflow to maintain or reduce unnecessary use of materials or staff time while helping to enhance customer service.

In your opinion, what can be done to improve sustainability within our community?

Education is the key to improving sustainability. This is twofold: first, continued education to keep up with technology and stay apprised of new products and materials being used in the built environment. Second, continued code education for staff so we can continue to effectively communicate and educate contractors and clients on the requirements necessary to comply with energy conservation standards and provisions in the code that will allow the continued use of existing buildings.

Past Sustainability Spotlights

Connect with City of Iowa City Sustainability 

Follow the City of Iowa City on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram using #SustainableIC
Contact Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations, or 319-887-6161