Iowa City Public Works

Architecture Firm: Neumann Monson Architects

Owner: City of Iowa City

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s):  Service (vehicle repair/service, postal service), other

Iowa City is the state’s fifth-largest city (population 70,000+) and consistently ranks as a top Midwestern livable community. While leadership has shaped a strong community, a 2015 master plan revealed the city’s aged public works facilities were in disrepair, did not support modern equipment, and required significant safety upgrades.  

This project represents the ambitious first phase to consolidate services on a city-owned 14-acre site. The facility provides an adaptable state-of-the-art facility that improves safety, reduces operational costs, incorporates innovative sustainable energy features, and is sympathetic to its context. The balance of operational efficiencies with human well-being elevates this project typology.  

"A building that consolidates civic functions but is also a gift to the city as well as to those who work in it. Architecture at its best and manages to do that on an incredible budget. Public art for public infrastructure with consolidating their public functions, creating art that people use. This is a beautiful project and an example for other cities." - Jury Comment

The Phase I structure serves three of five public works divisions and their vehicle and equipment needs. The program includes shops, large-scale vehicle/equipment storage, wash bays, and mezzanine storage. Also included are police and fire department storage and fire training facilities. The building’s east façade faces a residential neighborhood across an arterial just south of downtown. It sets an edge condition for the well-trafficked bike trail that links recreational grounds to the north and south, establishing a civic presence that belies the rough-and-tumble functions occurring deeper in the site.    

Projecting windows modulate the structure’s scale and provide dynamic exterior lighting at night. The diffuse daylight they admit during work hours—combined with 40 skylights and translucent polycarbonate walls on the north and south façades—provides a superior work environment and lends operational efficiencies. The west façade gives vehicular access to services including shops and wash bays.    

The building’s volumetric aspect ratio maximizes heating and cooling efficiency while the 50-foot structural module anticipates future additions and modifications. Material choices are highly durable, easily maintained, and cost-effective. The building’s anticipated LEED Gold certification furthers the city’s commitment to carbon neutrality as they deliver vital public services from the facility.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2018

Year of substantial project completion: 2019

Gross conditioned floor area: 88,160 sq ft

Number of stories: 2

Project climate zone: ASHRAE 5A

Annual hours of operation: 6,264

Site area: 981,204 sq ft

Project site context/setting: Urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $11,300,000

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 50

Project team

Architecture and Interior Design: Neumann Monson Architects

Engineer - Civil: Snyder & Associates  

Engineer - MEP: MODUS  

Engineer - Structural: Raker Rhodes Engineering  

General Contractor: Merit Construction

Industrial Designer/Maintenance Facility Designer: HDR | MDG-Maintenance Facility Designer

Landscape Architect: Genus Landscape Architects  

LEED Consultant: C-Wise Design & Consulting


Margaret Cavenagh, AIA, Chair, Studio Gang, Chicago

Angela Brooks, FAIA, Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles

Nakita Reed, AIA, NOMA, Quinn Evans, Baltimore

Z Smith, FAIA, Eskew Dumez Ripple, New Orleans

Image credits

The Public Works facility delivers vital public services to citizens across Iowa City and is bordered by city parks to the north and south and a trail system to the east and west.

Integrated Studio, Cameron Campbell

Translucent panels overlook the vehicle storage bay, providing nodes for convenient daily activity.

Integrated Studio, Cameron Campbell

Window apertures exist as an element of transparency and pleasant rhythm to the building’s primary façade.

Integrated Studio, Cameron Campbell

Translucent glazing admits ample daylight that aids in creating a dignified and safe work environment while reducing energy dependency.

Integrated Studio, Cameron Campbell

The facility and its campus is settled between a variety of public spaces, which created a need for careful respect in proportion and deference to surrounding activity.

Integrated Studio, Cameron Campbell