Sustainability Village

There have been a lot of new “green” initiatives nationwide recently. From renewable energy sources to increased recycling efforts, Americans are cleaning up their act. But, do these new technologies really work? Are they feasible and as easy to use as traditional materials?

That’s the question Kirkwood Community College hopes to answer with the Iowa Sustainability Village, which will immerse students in hands-on training and serve as a real-time laboratory to test developing technologies.

The Iowa Sustainability Village will be a cluster of three 1,000-square-foot residential cabins and an educational center. The buildings will be constructed and finished with industry standard eco-friendly materials. Students learn to use environmentally conscious tools, materials and techniques, then get to see how well it all performs.

The cabins will not be inhabited, but will instead be fitted with programmable logic controllers that will periodically turn lights off and on, run water, and utilize other utilities, to simulate the typical American lifestyle. They also will be wired with monitors, providing valuable performance data for each of the systems used.

Local Collaboration

Several local builders and energy companies are collaborating with Kirkwood on the Iowa Sustainability Village project. Local builders are interested in learning more about the materials and techniques Kirkwood uses at the village. Plus, students leave college already knowing how to handle these materials and how well they perform.

A cabin will be built every other year until there are three. When it is time to build the fourth, the first will be moved out of the village, and either sold or donated.

The village is designed and constructed by Kirkwood students studying:

  • Industrial Maintenance
  • Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Construction Management
  • Architectural Technology
  • Horticulture and Interior Design 

The village consists of:

  • Three residential cabins
  • Education center
  • Industrial production facility
  • Residential-size wind turbine
  • Solar collectors
  • Photovoltaic systems
  • Geothermal devices

Kirkwood, along with its partners within local industries, is the first community college in Iowa to build and study green technology.

Key partners include:

  • Bowker Mechanical
  • T & K Roofing
  • Alliant Energy
  • Kings Material
  • Windsor Windows
  • Stetson Building Products
  • Nelson Electric and Suburban Lumber

Executive Summary

The Iowa Sustainable Village is a collaborative project between students, faculty, and industry to design and build highly innovative and efficient single family structures on a small footprint. 

By engaging students in a practical application of theoretical knowledge the project will improve student success and help meet the workforce needs of local industry. The Sustainable Housing Educational Projects (SHEPs) will be built on Kirkwood’s Cedar Rapids campus, but will be designed so they can be sold, disassembled, and moved to another location.


Inspire stakeholders to create innovative buildings using sustainable materials and techniques.

The Iowa Sustainable Village will serve as a model for other schools to develop a financially viable system that educates both students and the public. The Iowa Sustainable Village addresses four categories of needs in the current marketplace.

  1. The ISV will help solve the expected labor shortage in the construction industry. The innovative project will attract more students to construction careers and will increase the completion rate of associated academic programs. The opportunity to design a practical project will develop productive workers with a passion for the industry.
  2. Consumers want to incorporate “green” building techniques and materials whenever practical. This project will train workers who are familiar with “green” techniques and it will serve as a showcase for owners, builders, and designers to see examples of these methods.
  3. The publicity generated by this project will enhance the reputation of Kirkwood Community College as an innovative leader. The ISV is especially valuable because it will establish an on-going project that generates interest every year. Since a new SHEP is created annually, and only three will be on site it allows the design and construction to continuously be on the cutting edge of new industry developments.
  4. The Iowa Sustainable Village will offer a unique method for donors to support a cause which captures their passion. That cause might be education, the environment, or charities such as Camp Courageous or local boys scout / girls scout camps. Donors may pay for a SHEP which is later transferred to their designated charity. A plaque on the structure will express gratitude to the donor, and while on the Village site the donor may want to arrange tours by clients or employees. Unique business proposition the SHEP structures sold for this project are unique because of the small size, sustainable design, portability, and their educational role. The sales price will be set at 150% of the value of materials. The labor of the student workers represents a significant savings over the cost of a commercially produced structure. At only 864 square feet the SHEP is much smaller than conventional housing. The intent is for these structures to be used for other purposes such as cabins or meeting rooms. Since the goal is to be a model for other educational institutions we do not plan to claim proprietary rights for this project.

Come Visit!

Iowa Sustainability Village
6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404