Dezeen Magazine

Municipal building in Iowa exterior

Soft light fills Iowa municipal building by Neumann Monson Architects

Polycarbonate walls and a row of tall window boxes bring diffused sunlight into the Iowa City Public Works building by US firm Neumann Monson Architects.

The low-lying building is located just south of Iowa City's downtown district, near a recreational area and a future housing development.

Iowa municipal building with reflective exterior
Neumann Monson Architects completed a municipal building in Iowa

Totalling 99,294 square feet (9,225 square metres), the facility houses the city's street and water departments, including all of their equipment and vehicles.

"This project represents the ambitious first step in a 14-acre master plan to consolidate and upgrade a scattered set of ageing municipal operations," said local firm Neumann Monson Architects.

Precast concrete panels for the side of the municipal building
The exterior facade is made of concrete panels

Rectangular in plan, the building was designed using 50-foot (15-metre) modules to accommodate future changes and additions. Materials were chosen for being highly durable, low-maintenance and cost-effective.

The structure is made of concrete and metal, and perimeter walls consist of precast concrete panels.

Reflective glass on exterior of municipal building
The building was created to accommodate additions

"The exterior panels were maximised in width as much as possible to reduce the number of joints," the studio said.

On the north and south facades, the architects incorporated large swaths of polycarbonate to bring in soft daylight.

Polycarbonate windows on Iowa municipal interior with construction equipment
Polycarbonate panels filter the exterior light

Additional daylight is provided by a rhythmic series of tall, projecting windows with integrated colour-changing LEDs. The windows line the east facade, which overlooks a pathway and the planned residential neighbourhood.

"It sets an edge condition for the well-trafficked bike trail that links recreational grounds to the north and south, establishing a civic presence and measured cadence," the team said.

Polycarbonate window walls
The structure houses equipment for local utilities departments

The building's main entrance, for both workers and vehicles, is on the west. A 12-foot (3.6-metre) canopy shelters equipment being stored outdoors.

Inside, the building has a main floor and mezzanine.

The building has a main floor and a mezzanine

The main level encompasses a large parking area, offices, workstations, multiple shops, a wash bay and storage space for items like signs and parts.

The mezzanine, which has forklift access, holds additional storage space, a sign shop, equipment rooms and an electric room.

Machine washing bay
The natural light helps reduce energy usage

Interior rooms are filled with diffused light owing to polycarbonate walls and exterior windows, including 40 skylights. The natural light "provides a superior work environment" and helps reduce the building's energy consumption, the team said.

Other sustainable elements include charging stations for electric vehicles, the use of reclaimed water, and plans to add a photovoltaic array. The project is anticipated to earn LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.

Overall, this project has met a multitude of goals, the team said.

"The aim was to create a space that not only meets the client's functional, schedule and budgetary needs but also provides all employees a dignified, safe and healthy space to work while respecting the adjacent neighborhoods and environment," the team said.

Crane in municipal building
The project met a number of sustainability goals

"The citizens will enjoy reduced operational costs and increased staff efficiencies of a modern facility."

Other Iowa projects by Neumann Monson Architects include a modern-style municipal services building in Des Moines that features operable windows and a central courtyard and the conversion of an 1850s farmhouse into a home that embodies an "understated choreography of new and old".

The photography is by Integrated Studio.

Project credits:

Architect: Neumann Monson Architects
Contractor: Merit Construction
Structural engineer: Raker Rhodes Engineering
MEP engineer: Modus
Civil engineer: Snyder
Landscape design: Genus Landscape Architects
Equipment consultant: HDR's Maintenance Design Group

More images and plans

Iowa City Public Works
Iowa City Public Works
Iowa City Public Works
Iowa City Public Works