Shortlisted project Smarter Sustainable Dubuque

Dubuque, United States

Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is a partnership between the City of Dubuque and IBM Research to pilot an integrated, cross-silo initiative for managing resources and reducing carbon emissions.

Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is an innovative partnership between the City of Dubuque and IBM Research. The project was initiated in 2009 when the City of Dubuque and IBM Research announced their intentions to make Dubuque one of the first "smarter" sustainable cities in U.S.A.

Plans include the development of new "smarter" technologies and the implementation of strategies to create a replicable, international model of sustainability for communities of 200,000 or less, where more than 40 percent of the American population resides. The model will integrate community engagement and education, more energy-efficient ways of operating municipal services and buildings, decreased carbon emissions, new employment opportunities, increased financial savings, and a higher quality of life for the entire community.

Smarter Sustainable Dubuque will provide Dubuque residents with the information and tools required to make smarter choices about resource consumption. The initiative is engaging Dubuque residents and businesses who, through advanced technology, will be able to voluntarily better manage their use of resources such as, water, electricity, oil, and natural gas.

Shortlisted project

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2014 in the following category: Deserving Initiative. Learn more about the award.


City information

Size and population development
57,637 (2010 USA census statistics)

Population composition
Population comprises 23,506 households, and 13,888 families residing in the city. The ethnical makeup of the city is 91.7% White, 4.0% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.1% Asian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other ethnicities, and 1.8% from two or more ethnicities. Hispanic or Latino of any ethnicity were 2.4% of the population.

Main functions
One of the few large cities In Iowa with hills, and a tourist destination featuring the city's architecture and river location.

Main industries / business
Commercial, industrial, educational, health care, cultural and tourism

Sources for city budget
Federal and State Government funding and city taxes.

Political structure
Council-manager form of government

Administrative structure
Policy and financial decisions are made by the city council, which serves as the city's legislative body. The council comprises the mayor who serves as chairman, 4 ward-elected members, and 2 at-large members; The city is divided into 4 electoral wards and 21 precincts.

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Background and objectives
Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is a major project of the City's Sustainable Dubuque Initiative, which began in 2006 when the Council made environmental sustainability a key priority for the city. In 2009 the Smarter Sustainable Dubuque project was awarded $30,000 in funding by the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation and has subsequently grown into a collaboration that includes over twenty-five industries and eight state and federal agencies. 
Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is a project comprised of multiple pilots: Smarter Water, Smarter Electricity, Smarter Travel, Smarter Health and Wellness and Smarter Discards. Smarter Sustainable Dubuque seeks to make Dubuque a community that meets the present environmental, economic and social equity needs of its residents  without reducing the ability to meet the needs of future generations.
Smarter Sustainable Dubuque delivers smart technologies coupled with community outreach and implementation strategies. This model integrates community engagement and documents community improvement and opportunities through smarter resource utilization. Testing and analysis of all individual resources provides the community with a proactive and technological approach to resource consumption and sustainability.
Pilot households were equipped with advance electric and water meters as well as radio frequency identification tags and smartphone apps to track their vehicle miles traveled. Using these tools, the Council tracked results and provided each household with a weekly report on electricity and water consumption as well as vehicle miles travelled. A key component of the program is the development and use of a personal and community dashboard an interactive website where citizens can monitor and compare their energy use.
The Council's role in Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is to collaborate with IBM Research to design the pilot schedule, recruit and manage volunteers, manage the help desk, provide IBM Research with data from pilot households for analysis, and design policy and recommendations for implementation that are supported by the data findings. The role of IBM Research is to develop the analytics and technology for each phase of the pilots, assess and provide data to the Council for use in performance measures and policy implementation.
Additional partners include: 
  • Alliant Energy (smart electricity)
  • East Central Intergovernmental Association (manager of the public transit system) 
  • Neptune Technologies (water meters and data collection system)
  • Racom (wireless backhaul technologies)
  • Fergeson Group (data and meter reading technology)
  • Camelot - (RFID technology)
  • Chamber of Commerce (community engagement)
  • Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (community engagement)
  • Green Dubuque (community engagement)
  • Greater Dubuque Development Corporation (community engagement)
  • University of Iowa (Masters Program)
Financing and resources
The City of Dubuque and IBM Research are the lead agencies for Smarter Sustainable Dubuque.
Initial funds ($USD) were provided by the following agencies and companies:
  • EPA climate showcase communities grant: $473,136
  • Iowa power fund: $1,400,00
  • DOE smart grid data access grant: $500,000
  • ICAAP grant: $300,160
  • STP funds: $260,000
  • City of Dubuque general fund: $60,032
  • City of Dubuque utilities water fund: $1,012,000
  • IBM in-kind match: $1,190,000
  • IBM first of a kind (FOAK) grant: $1,000,000
  • City of Dubuque IT help desk: $5,520
  • Director of sustainable innovations contract: $100,000
  • Community engagement partner incentives: $65,000
In kind resources include a Sustainability Coordinator, an Information Services Director, a Public Information Officer, a Resource Management Coordinator and a Utility Billing Supervisor.
Results and impacts
Smarter Sustainable Dubuque has impacted on sustainability practices and policies at local, state, national and international levels. A few examples are:
  • Local industry partners are taking products and services designed to respond to the needs of Smarter Sustainable Dubuque, and providing them to other communities across America, increasing employment and economic vibrancy.
  • In 2011, the City of Dubuque entered into a partnership with the University of Iowa Masters Program to support Smarter Sustainable Dubuque by collaborating on milestone projects that examined alternative energy systems, addressed social equity components of sustainability, and developed a set of benchmarks to create performance measures for sustainability principles.
  • In 2013, as part of an on-going relationship between Dubuque, Iowa and Townsville, Queensland, Australia, the Smarter Water pilot was launched in Townsville modelled on Dubuque. In addition to promoting water resource conservation in drought areas, the project received the Smart Infrastructure Project award at the 2013 Australian Infrastructure Awards.
Barriers and challenges

The two major challenges of the initiative Smarter Sustainable Dubuque initiative include keeping residents engaged beyond the pilot period and guaranteeing the affordability of smart metres.


Lessons learned and transferability

Other communities have learned from the Smarter Sustainable Dubuque Pilot progams and have started projects in their own communities. Smarter Sustainable Dubuque has also inspired other initiatives within the City, including a Department of Transportation grant for redesigning public transport routes, Green Iowa community weatherization and incorporation of Smarter Water into the K-12 school curriculum.

The following aspects have been key to the initiative:

  • All of the Smarter Sustainable Dubuque pilots are cloud-based, providing ease of replication in other communities where citizens have smartphones and smart electric metering infrastructure.
  • Effective communication and outreach methods included direct calling, email, e-newsletters, "community cafes", and social media.
  • Providing incentives and education sessions proved effective methods of volunteer engagement.

- Dubuque, America, Smarter Sustainable Dubuque, Guangzhou Award, 2014

External links / documents