University of Iowa Student Government resolution to encourage sustainable housing development in Iowa City

Although still in its beginning phases, members of the USG are currently drafting a resolution strongly recommending developers incorporate sustainable and energy efficient initiatives within future housing units built in Iowa City.


Tate Hildyard

University Iowa Associate AD of Student-Athlete Academic Services, Liz Tovar speaks to the Undergraduate Student Government over Zoom on Tuesday, October 6th, 2020. Student government is discussing the Class Pass/Fail legislation being passed tonight.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

Prompted by many upscale housing units set to be developed in Iowa City, several members of the University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government are currently working on a resolution to advocate that new housing in Iowa City meets sufficient sustainability requirements.

With a recent push to achieve a higher level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, many newly developed buildings across Iowa City have incorporated sustainable and energy efficient features, such as the new Public Works building, which won the Excellence in Energy Efficiency Design award for this accomplishment.

The upcoming Tailwind Group development project on the Pedestrian Mall is aiming to achieve LEED Gold Certification, and is one of the recent development projects that prompted UI sophomore and USG City Liaison Ryan Longenecker to propose the idea of this resolution to other student government members.

Longenecker said he learned that prospective developers are not required to explicitly meet any set of sustainability or energy efficiency standards proposed by the city.

He said this motivated him to propose a resolution that would encourage and hopefully end up requiring this.

“The city staff pushes developers to be as compliant with the city’s 2030 sustainability goals, et cetera, but there’s no set standard, so it’s really by developer,” Longenecker said. “After [discovering] that, we started thinking like, ‘Hey, maybe we can put together a resolution, saying that, as students who are going to be the most affected generation by climate change, we want to see new buildings, especially those that are going to be marketed toward students, be held to the highest possible levels of sustainability.’”

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Longenecker said he would like to see new developments reach LEED Platinum Certification, which is the highest level of LEED certification, and something that he thinks is easier to incorporate into newer buildings.

Iowa City Climate Action and Engagement Specialist Sarah Gardner wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that Iowa City has recently prioritized focusing on increasing the number of city buildings being renovated or built to match LEED standards.

Gardner wrote that this matches the city’s 2030 Climate Action and Adaptation goals.

“The City is very interested in the sustainable design principles and energy efficiency measures incorporated into LEED certified buildings, which align with many of the goals in Iowa City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan,” Gardner wrote. “Some of the LEED principles have been adopted into the City building codes for that reason.”

Gardner added that a large portion of rental properties within Iowa City are older buildings, which has encouraged the city to work with those owners and find ways in which newer, sustainable practices can be incorporated into this older architecture.

“The city is always exploring ideas with builders and property owners as to how we can make both new construction and existing housing stock more sustainable for the renters who occupy them,” Gardner wrote.

Already five weeks into the semester, Longenecker said he would like to see this resolution completed fairly quickly, with a resolution drafted and reviewed by individual committees, and presented on the senate floor within the next few weeks.

RELATED: USG passes resolution supporting sustainability, affordability, COVID-19 mitigation on campus

Longenecker said if USG passes this resolution, he will go to the Iowa City City Council and present the resolution on behalf of students.

Longenecker said he thinks with younger generations being more inclined to support sustainable and environmentally conscious policies, he would not be surprised to see a large majority of the Senate support this resolution.

UI junior and USG Director of Sustainability Joseph Haggerty said Iowa City has always ensured that sustainability is a priority and at the forefront of all developments, but that student senators wanted to continue advocating for accountability among and resources for entities the city works with.

“What we kind of want to do as an undergraduate student government is to push for the continuation of a lot of their resources and a lot of their initiatives that they’ve been going through,” Haggerty said. “We’re hoping to make sure that the city knows that students, especially at the University of Iowa, are encouraging the continuation of new stages of their huge sustainability plan.”

Haggerty said he is hoping to see the city accept development projects that will bring economic growth without jeopardizing the health and security of the community, especially marginalized populations.

“There’s just so many programs that the city has already that we’re hoping to not only continue, but with the new developments, to make sure that there are actually tangible differences that are being made,” Haggerty said. “And that the city isn’t just approving the development of even more buildings that are going to not only hurt the economic interests of a lot of marginalized populations here in Iowa City, but also to make it so that we’re actually caring about the environment.”