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Architects say new 'green' school was built at conventional cost

As construction nears an end on River Crest Elementary School and teachers begin to move in, the architects and builders believe they have not only built a good school, but an extraordinary one and for less than expected.

River Crest is a sustainably designed and constructed school, the first in the region. Hoffman Architects and Total Project Management of Appleton, which designed the school and managed its construction, reported to the School Board last week that the cost of the school will also come in less than conventionally built buildings in the area.

According to Hoffman representatives, River Crest "is being delivered at $167 per square foot including fees, site preparation and with a target of LEED Gold certification, the highest standard for a sustainable design building."

They compared it to the elementary school under construction in New Richmond at a cost per square foot of $187 and for a sustainable-design school built in Twin Lakes in 2006 at a cost of $193 per square foot.

RS Means, a nationally known supplier of construction cost information, estimates that the average cost for a 75,000-square-foot elementary school in the Twin Cities with a steel frame, face brick and concrete block, including site preparation and fees, is $183 per square foot.

Hoffman said that they were able to incorporate savings in the original design into added and upgraded features in the school including things like gym partitions, ceramic bathroom wall and floor tiles, 54x18-foot mural, additional cabinetry and SMART boards. Savings helped offset the cost of some of the County F road improvements, and the budget will also cover the administrative costs associated with LEED certification.

Hoffman's Sam Statz, construction manager of the project, said the design of the school allowed them to build "sustainably at the right price." He said that 97 percent of the construction waste was recycled and that all efforts were made to control erosion and maintain the natural setting of the school.

The school also includes new energy-efficient windows, especially for the River Crest project, designed by Andersen Windows with assistance from Hoffman. The school also includes special glass to control glare, solar heat gain and maximized natural light, a modern air quality system, hot water radiant floors in the early childhood area of the school, and 85-percent-efficient boilers.

Voters approved a $12,040,000 bond referendum in December 2007. That money was combined with $3.5 million from the general fund to build the school. River Crest was completed within the original 20-month schedule that included annexation of the property at Coulee Trail and County F into the city of Hudson. The sustainable design is expected to save the district money in operating expenses, especially in energy use, over the long haul.

Open house

Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten said that there will be a day-long family event Sept. 27 to celebrate the opening of the school. Activities will take place between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and will include a picnic lunch, a balloon launch, nature hike, the burying of a time capsule and a dedication ceremony.

For more information about the design and construction of River Crest, visit and click on new elementary school. The superintendent can be reached at (715) 377-3702.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604