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New green-friendly City Hall complements River Falls’ sustainability goal

April 23, 2009

The City of River Falls has recently completed a new green-friendly City Hall. Staff will move in on May 1 and 2 and resume duties the first week of May, according to River Falls Mayor Don Richards.

“The new City Hall is a great [boon] for the City and provides a progressive forward-looking image to sustainability that goes along with the model the city is aiming for,” Richards said

Kelly Cain, director of the St. Croix Valley Institute for Sustainable Community Development, defined sustainability in an e-mail interview.

“A community is sustainable only to the degree to which it is ‘locally’ self-sufficient in energy, food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation, employment and commerce scaled to the equitable needs of all its citizens and within the carrying capacity of native ecosystems over multiple (seven) generations. Sustainability is the attempt to prevent un-sustainability.”

The new City Hall replaced the old hall built in 1957. Improvements had been made on the old hall since its construction, but Richards said it was time for the new one.

“The new City Hall was absolutely necessary. You can only put new soles on old shoes so many times.”

There were critics of the new City Hall who voiced their complaints to the City Council and River Falls Journal, Richards said. They were critical of the costs and questioned whether it was necessary.

An editorial on March 19 in the River Falls Journal said, “When the City Council decided to build a new City Hall and Mayor Richards assured us that it would be a green building I was confused. …But Friday I finally understood. On my way to work I noticed that the top of the building was painted GREEN.”

The new City Hall is Leadership in Environmental Energy Design (L.E.E.D) certified, Richards said.

L.E.E.D certification means the building meets standards for Green Building Design as setup by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

“To get L.E.E.D certification the building had to pass an inspection by a USGBC expert who the City brought in,” Richards said.

Points are assigned to a building based on its fulfillment of certain green-friendly criteria.

The expert assigned points for the recycling of brick from the previous building that stood in its place, Richards said. Points were also assigned for having windows that facilitate more solar heat, sensory lights that automatically turn off when there is enough sunlight and outlets for solar panels on the roof.

“WPPI Energy in River Falls provided grants to the City to pay additional costs and encourage sustainable energy practices,” Richards said.

The design process for any major building often takes three years and sustainable technology that was expensive and cutting edge often becomes dated by the time the actual building is constructed, Cain said.

“We need to design a building that produces as much energy as it consumes if not more,” Cain said. “We need to be reducing overall carbon levels.”

Richards said UWRF students looking to protect the environment should be aware of their carbon footprint. He said everything we use produces a carbon footprint.

“Manufactured goods and gasoline require more energy to create causing a bigger carbon footprint, Richards said. “If we recycle, ride bikes and drive more energy-efficient vehicles we are reducing our footprint.”

UWRF students and the community have a responsibility to current and future generations, Cain said.

“We have a social contract to leave the climate better than we found it.”