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Thursday, June 18, 2009

River Falls opens doors on new 'green' City Hall

From an article by Andy Rathbun in the Pioneer Press:

River Falls has a new City Hall, and just like the city it represents, it's a state leader in being "green."

The firm that designed the newly opened, 27,000-square-foot building says it's the first LEED-registered city hall in Wisconsin. It features lots of sunlight, is made of recycled materials and has the latest mechanics designed to save energy.

LEED — or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is a designation made by the U.S. Green Building Council for buildings that meet or exceed certain environmentally friendly requirements. Buildings are ranked as certified, silver, gold or platinum, and the new City Hall is expected to be designated either silver or gold.

It's far cry from the old City Hall, located in a cramped 1912 building originally built as a library.

"This is like night and day," said city Planning Director Mariano "Buddy" Lucero of his new office. His old office was windowless, but in this new space, there's so much sunlight coming in that he doesn't even have to turn on the lights, he said.

The City Hall was built for about $5.2 million, said Mark Paschke of River Falls-based Frisbie Architects, the firm that designed the building. Making the facility adhere to environmentally friendly standards did not make it more expensive to build — its costs are in line with other new office buildings its size, he said.

And the design is meant to cut future utility costs.

Many of the lights that do get turned on are controlled by motion detectors. It's one of the ways the building conserves energy. High-efficiency boilers and air conditioners will make the building 34 percent more energy-efficient than required by code, city officials said.

About a third of the building's power comes from the purchase of renewable energy; River Falls is a leader in using such sources in the Midwest. The building's roof also was built with solar power in mind.

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