The homeowner of Muscatine wanted to build a home that was flexible in its utility at her different stages in life, with the ultimate goal of aging-in-place. The interior of the home has spacious rooms with wide hallways and doorways to accommodate future wheelchair access throughout the ground floor. Spacious rooms allow for flexible furniture arrangement to allow the homeowner to create aethetic interest in her space and assure the needs of future homeowners are met, as well.  The 641 square foot basement was designed to accommodate two bedrooms and a bathroom if desired by a future homeowner. 

The main floor bathroom has ample space to accommodate a wheelchair  as well as accessiblity features such as grabbars and seated bathing. The single car garage is attached, but separated from the living space by a vesitibule. Additionally, the mandoor to the garage has a closer and the garage an occupancy controlled exhaust fan - all features to help isolate vehicle fumes from occupied space.  Ample storage is provided throughout both units to help make small living approachable but not limiting.

The second floor of the home features a 476 square foot accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with private enterance. All residential zoning codes in the city of Iowa City permit accessory dwelling units. The ADU is particularly advantageous to the homeowner because it could serve as private lodging for a family member or 24-hour nurse in later years, or as a tenant dwelling providing a secondary source of income to supplement retirement funds and federal Social Security -- allowing residents to maintain financial independence after retirement. Currently, the ADU is being used for the latter.

Muscatine features a 6.4 kW rooftop PV array atop a low-pitch roof.  The lot is surrounded by mature trees, the higher roof of the secondary dwelling provided an ideal location for full-solar access. The low-pitch allowed PV panels to be installed edge-to-edge, maximizing solar production capacity. 

Electricity produced from the PV array exceeds the demand of both the main floor dwelling and second floor accessory dwelling unit for 6-8 months throughout the year.  In these months, the homeowner pays only $8.59 a month as a base-rate for her electricity service provider and averages $45 a month in energy costs for both units. 

Rooftop Solar

Landscaping at Muscatine Ave. was installed by Fiddlehead Gardens and features native and adapted perennial plantings which provide habitat for insects, animals and other pollinators. Native-adapted plants are well suited to handle drought and cold winters common in our region.  Species with high resistance to drought were selected to help eliminate the need for supplemental watering. Deep rooted prairie plants  sequester carbon, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the home. 

Grass seed on the lot was mixed with 25% clover, a nitrogen-fixing plant that serves as a living ferilizer and feeds pollinators. Using this grass seed mix instead of a one-size fits all sod allowed the homeowner to significantly reudce the water needed to establish the lawn. 

72% of the site is planting beds, providing extra habitat for pollinators and improving the water infiltration of the soil on the lot to protect against soil runoff, pollution and flooding.

Energy Efficiency

Muscatine Ave is a 100% electric home purchasing 84% less killowatts than a code compliant new home of the same size. As MidAmerican Energy (the energy provider) adds more wind power to the electric grid, the home will operate with net zero carbon. 

All appliances in the home are Energy Star rated, and the home is constructed to meet Energy Star 3 criteria. All lighting and lighting fixtures are LED lightbulbs with dimming capabilites, using only 10-20% of the energy of traditional incandescent lightbulbs. Occupancy sensors are located in the garage and foyer for ease of navigation and additional efficiency.

The home features whole-home insulation with 1" rigid foam fiberglass board and batt in the walls and basement walls, and 3.5" of spray foam plus fiberglass insulation in the roof, keeping the structure sufficiently sheltered from Iowa winters. Home heating and cooling is serviced by an energy saving mini-split system located in individual rooms throughout the home to regulate temperature according to need and occupancy activity. Low emitting finish material finish materials coupled with an energy recovery ventilator ensure consistent and healthy indoor air quality.

Hot water is delivered to each unit via compact (less than 20 ft runs) design with a 30 gallon electric water heater serving each unit. This paried with low flow fixtures and faucets reduces the demand for water and energy. 

Sustainable Siting

Muscatine Ave. was vacant but previously had a home that was demolished some years ago.  Development of existing sites helps perserve undeveloped farmland or natural areas. Muscatine Ave runs through the heart of Iowa City connecting the downtown area at the Northwest to suburban nieghborhoods of the Southeast. Muscatine Ave. is located within a mile of two grocery stores, several parks, Longfellow Nieghborhood, Towncrest Shopping Area, and City High Senior High School. Four bus lines are located within walking distance of the home, with one bus stop right across Muscatine Avenue. Multiple convenience stores and independent markets are located within walking distance along Muscatine Ave, as well. Transportation accounts for 28% of a persons carbon footprint. Locating your home in a more densely populated area close to amenities significantly reduces the carbon footprint.

The accessory dwelling unit located on the second floor of Muscatine increases the population density of the lot and the neighborhood, further reducing per capita GHG emissions from transportation, reducing habitat destruction from urban sprawl, material production emissions, and more.

Muscatine Ave

Muscatine Ave is an all electric, 876 square foot home with a  476 sf 2nd floor accessory dwelling located in the heart of Iowa City. The home was constructed in 2017, and received LEED-H Platinum in 2019 -- the second home in Iowa to receive this certification, and the first in the corridor. The mission of the project was to construct a home tailored to "aging-in-place" for the homeowner, while not compromising on green features and flexibility for future occupants. The home has been recognized at the 2017 Iowa City Parade of Homes, and during the 2020 Iowa City Climate Festival. See a video of Muscatine here.



Project Team

Architect: C-Wise Design
MEP Engineer: Building Knowledge
Contractors: Legacy Green Building

Commissioning: XRG Concepts

Structural: Suburban Lumber

Landscape: Fiddlehead Gardens

Plumbing: Five Star Plumbing

Electrical: Benchmark

Mechanical: Affordable Heating and Plumbing

LEED Consultant: Building Knowledge

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