Gold is one of the Iowa Hawkeyes’ primary colors. It is also the color of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification that Iowa received for the renovation of its Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
When the school set out to redo the arena, it was a significant undertaking for the University of Iowa (UI) because Carver-Hawkeye plays a prominent role on campus. One of the largest university-owned athletic facilities in the country, Carver-Hawkeye is home to most of Iowa’s sports teams and the athletic department offices, fitness center, and practice fields, as well as serving as a venue for concerts, sports camps, and commencements.
Iowa’s goal wasn’t just to expand and update the nearly 30-year-old facility but to have it operate in a more environmentally efficient way. The university already had a handful of notable LEED-certified buildings and established a Silver LEED as the standard threshold for all new construction and large-scale renovations.
“It is very important that the athletics program serve as a leader and support the sustainability principles outlined by the greater university,” stated Jane Meyer, UI’s senior associate director of athletics, when the LEED was awarded. “It is truly a win-win because we benefit by having a state-of-the-art and energy-efficient facility, and we assist the university in meeting its sustainability goals.”
The Carver-Hawkeye renovation addressed several areas that qualified it for a Gold LEED.
Water use was lowered by more than 40%, including installing water-efficient landscaping without having to put in a new irrigation system, and there was a 51% savings in energy costs.
Additionally, the school launched a dedicated renewable energy project that involved burning biomass from oat hulls at the arena’s main power plant.
The building process, moreover, incorporated regional and recycled materials, using eco-friendly carpeting, paint, and other construction products.
This award-winning renovation was not Carver-Hawkeye’s first big sustainability-minded endeavor, although the earlier one was more of an emergency. On one stormy April day in 2006, the arena’s roof was severely damaged when the UI campus was plummeted by a tornado and hailstorm.
Much of the vinyl roofing had to be replaced. However, because vinyl can be recycled, it was processed into vinyl material for the new EnergySmart Roof instead of being thrown in a landfill. Construction crews also discovered that a lot of the roof insulation was still in good condition, so it was reused. The repair job was so successful that it garnered a Sustainable Roofing Performance award.
UI has continued to do upgrades at the arena that had environmental benefits. In 2016, Carver-Hawkeye revamped its lighting system with new LED bulbs delivering positive rewards in multiple ways. LEDs improve the fan experience, both in-person and at home, by providing better visual quality, and they are easier to use with special effects. LEDs have lower operating costs and energy waste because of their programmability, such as the ability to adjust levels to fit power needs.
Consequently, energy consumption is 55% less than the lighting the arena previously had. The new system, according to Damian Simcox, UI assistant athletic director of facilities, “enhances our overall Hawkeye fan experience while making our facility more energy efficient. We could not be more pleased with the end result.”
These results haven’t gone unnoticed nationally, either. Carver-Hawkeye Arena placed within the top 11 greenest college basketball venues in a nationwide ranking.
There is a certain symmetry to sustainability playing an important role at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The facility was named in honor of Roy J. Carver, an industrialist and philanthropist who found success in the tire retreading business. The Energy Justice Network has called retreading a significant way to decrease tire waste. Besides athletics, the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust has supported many forward-looking UI programs, such as healthcare, biomedical, and scientific research.
Similarly, the university is involved in several projects demonstrating its concern for our environmental future. Iowa, the first Big-10 school to be a Fair Trade University, is a certified tree and bike campus. It also helps to protect the bee population and build pollinator habitats around its grounds.