New Residential, Owner-Occupied: Prairie Hill Cohousing

Prairie Hill Cohousing is the first cohousing community in Iowa. It is the only LEED certifiable site in Johnson County, with its structures certifiable at the silver or gold level. Built densely on an 8-acre infill hillside, it is a bike-able mile by trails from downtown Iowa City, even closer to the University of Iowa campus, and within walking distance of a grocery store, restaurants, stores, and services providers. City buses stop a block away.

Four acres of the site are reserved for gardens, orchard, and prairie. The developed landscape area requires little watering and rare mowing. A large detention basin and a bioswale planted in native plants help retain storm water on site and were funded through REAP and IDALS grant awards. Impermeable surfaces are the minimum required by city zoning code.

Economic diversity is supported in the owner-occupied homes by including a wide range of sizes and price points. Additionally, grant funding for down-payment assistance came from the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County and tax credits came through a Workforce Housing Tax Incentive Award through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Duplexes and fourplexes are clustered around a multi-function Common House. Shared walls and roofs reduced construction materials and save energy in this all-electric community. Two-story buildings are partially earth-sheltered. 

A Common House cuts the need for space and facilities in individual homes by having guest rooms and large spaces for big gatherings. Traditional “basement rooms” such as a kids play room, multi-purpose activity room, and a separate wood shop are shared.

Sustainably-minded features include:

  • sunshades on south-facing windows
  • solar panels
  • insulated walls with sustainable materials
  • light tubes in interior bathrooms
  • ENERGYSTAR appliances
  • LED lighting fixtures
  • HVAC through mini-split heat pumps in combination with high-efficiency ceiling fans and energy recovery ventilators
  • low-flow faucets and showers
  • 0.8 gallon-per-flush toilets
  • small or on-demand water heaters

People United for Responsible Land Use