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River Crest Elementary School earns gold at bargain price

River Crest Elementary is the first elementary school in Wisconsin and just the second in the nation to receive Gold under the new LEED for Schools Rating System from the United States Green Building Council. Photo by Margaret Ontl

As River Crest Elementary School is preparing to open for its second year, word came that the green, sustainably designed school has earned gold as in "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold" from the United States Green Building Council.

The news came from Hoffman LLC, the Appleton architectural and construction management firm that designed and managed the construction of River Crest. The announcement was made at the School Board meeting last week by Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten.

Completed in August 2008, River Crest was designed and built for $166 per square foot, which includes design, site work, construction, furnishings, fixtures and equipment. According to Hoffman, that total project cost is $57 per square foot less than, or 29 percent below, the average cost for public elementary schools built in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2008 as reported by School Planning & Management in their "2009 Construction Report."

The designation is the first for an elementary school in Wisconsin and just the second in the nation to receive Gold under the council's new LEED for Schools Rating System. In addition, it is the second of only two public school buildings in the state to receive LEED Gold designation -- the first being Northland Pines High School project in Eagle River in 2006.

Bowen-Eggebraaten said that the Board of Education with the district had set their sights on creating a school that would be a model of sustainable design and practices for River Crest's students and staff, the entire district and the greater community. She said that pursuing LEED certification was at the core of that goal.

"We are committed to environmental sustainability," said Bowen-Eggebraaten. "Designing and building with LEED certification in mind pushed us, and I wouldn't want to create another building without it."

Bowen-Eggebraaten recognized the school's design team that included Dick Muenich, Tim Erickson, Pat Hodges and Jim Stejskal; and Board of Education members Dan Tjornehoj, Mark Kaisersatt, Cindy Crimmins, Brian Bell, Tom Holland, Tracy Habisch-Ahlin, Lynn Robson and Barb Van Loenen for their commitment to the district's first sustainable building project.

"River Crest's LEED Gold certification validates and confirms that sustainable design and construction can be done at or below conventional costs," said Mark Hanson, Hoffman's director of Sustainable Services. "It's the right thing to do, and there is no reason not to design and build green."

Paul J. Hoffman, Hoffman LLC owner and CEO, said, "In River Crest Elementary, the Hudson School District has a school that not only showcases their commitment to sustainability as a LEED Gold building, but one that has impressed the community from both an aesthetic and financial standpoint."

For more on this story, see the August 20 print edition of the Hudson Star-Observer.