This article is part of gb&d‘s Green Typologies series, City Halls: The Heart of the City.
Location River Falls, WI
Size 26,850 ft²
Program City hall
Client City of River Falls
Architect Frisbie Architects
Certification LEED Silver
Site Urban infill
Landscape Native flora, pervious pavement, and parking-lot bioswale
HVAC Highly-efficient traditional systems
Wisconsin’s first LEED Silver-certified city hall in River Falls, completed in 2010, was built with three constituencies in mind. First were its 15,000 citizens, who remain drawn to the bustling downtown and who paid for the $5 million structure. Second was the business community immediately surrounding the administrative center. And the third, well, it isn’t exactly a group; it’s an entire ecosystem, that of the Kinnickinnic River, which flows through the town and alongside the new building and offers a habitat for wild trout and innumerable other species of wildlife.
The new city hall’s 67,000-square-feet of hard surfaces is comparable to the existing amount before the site was redeveloped, but the building uses water-efficient elements such as bioswales and pervious pavement to absorb 75 percent of storm-water runoff and feed cleaner, cooler water into the river. Similar water-management measures are abundant throughout the city, which exhibits an astonishingly green-conscious culture. Residents are cognizant of the connections between natural habitat and human quality of life, and this awareness is evident everywhere.
“Local residents are tuned into the environment,” says Reid Wronski, the director of public works and the city engineer. Built on the budget of a smaller city, the post-modern building is futuristic without being exotic. It doesn’t have a geothermal system, solar cells, or a green roof, but Matt Frisbie, principal of Frisbie Architects, which designed the structure, says the team did only what made sense. Low-cost features that still met LEED criteria included the reuse of 91 percent of demolition waste in the new building. Quality insulation, a high-efficiency HVAC system, and building automation made the building 34 percent more efficient than energy-code requirements. Low-flow faucets and toilets were installed to reduce water-use, which ended up being 20 percent below code, saving 10,000 gallons per year.
Further raising the bar for city halls of this size, 35 percent of energy comes from renewable sources, and 75 percent of wood came from sustainable forests. Anticipating that solar collectors will one day be feasible, conduits are already installed, and even with a plethora of green features, the project was completed at $168 per square foot, low enough that the city didn’t have to raise property taxes.
Maintaining a downtown location was a sustainability decision as well. As the administrative center of a bedroom community (River Falls is 30 minutes east of Minnesota’s Twin Cities), the city hall maintains connectivity and has spurred further building projects. A local grocer just completed a $6 million modernization of its existing store nearby, and a new downtown hotel was constructed in the same time frame as the city hall project. All of which spells good living for River Falls residents—and the trout passing through.
This article is part of gb&d‘s Green Typologies series, which in each issue explores a single type of building. For more of our most recent collection, City Halls: The Heart of the City, choose from the list below: