River Falls Eco-Village is a community of sustainable, high-performance affordable homes being developed in River Falls, Wisconsin by St Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity in cooperation with the City of River Falls, River Falls Municipal Utilities, St Croix Institute and a group of corporate partners. Built on land donated by the City of River Falls, the Eco-Village consists of 18 single family residences, a community center and solar garden. All of the homes in Eco-Village achieved preliminary designation as LEED-H Platinum. All are EnergyStar 3.0 certified.
River Falls Eco-Village is being built on approximately three acres of land within walking distance of the downtown area, schools and established neighborhoods. Before being donated by the city, the land was used primarily to deposit snow removed from the downtown area. Home plans were developed by a local architectural firm with experience in green design and civil engineering and development planning were donated by a local engineering and surveying firm.
Eco-Village features a walking trail, community gardens, raingardens, permeable paver sidewalks and driveways, and edible landscaping. Homes in the village feature high-performance building envelopes that use SIPs and ICFs, metal roofs, low maintenance exteriors, renewable energy systems, sprinkler systems, energy recovery ventilators and rooftop rainwater collection systems. HERS scores for Eco-Village homes range from 17 to -5 when photovoltaics are included. Without PV HERS scores range from 39 to 33.
St Croix Valley HFH is using Eco-Village as a learning laboratory where material selections, construction details and techniques are tested for the volunteer building model used by Habitat. Homes contain monitoring systems that track electrical consumption and production, solar thermal production and water usage. Variations in envelope detail and mechanical systems provides information about how various choices affect performance. Monitoring data is also used to help teach homeowners how they can affect their energy footprint and reduce costs.
River Falls Eco-Village is already garnering awards for partners for their roles including lighting design, affordable homes and energy performance. According to Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy Program six of the ten top performing homes in their New Homes Program, including the highest performing home, were in Eco-Village.
Infrastructure and home construction began in 2012 with the first homes occupied in mid-2013. Completion of homebuilding is slated for December of 2015 with the community center and solar garden to follow.
Beyond the performance of the homes and neighborhood, River Falls Eco-Village shows what a small organization a vision and community and corporate support can accomplish in creating livable, affordable and sustainable homes. St Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity is a smaller Habitat affiliate started in 1996 who, prior to Eco-Village, typically constructed 1-2 houses per year using traditional affordable housing methods and materials. To create Eco-Village they had to assume the role of developer with responsibility for infrastructure as well as homebuilding.
Sassie’s House (note that Sassie is the homeowner’s cat) is one of the first group of homes to be built in River Falls Eco-Village. The home was designed by architect Jim Muehlbauer and is distinguished by having a HERS score of -5, the lowest to date in Eco-Village. The home features two-bedroom, slab-on-grade construction with a finished floor area of 975 square feet. Wall construction is of 12” SIPs with an interior 2x4 wall framed at 24”o.c. Exterior walls, soffits and fascia are of pre-finished LP Smartside. The roof is 26 gauge coated standing seam metal roofing.
Sassie’s House is heated and cooled by in-floor radiant heat and a Fujitsu ductless mini-split. Most of the lighting is LED and most electricity is provided by a 5.3KW rooftop mounted solar array. Two solar thermal panels supplement an electric hot water heater, providing most of the hot water needed over the course of the year. Air quality is maintained by a Zehnder Comfoair 350 energy recover ventilator. The home includes a sprinkler system provided by Uponor.
River Falls Eco-Village is located in River Falls, Wisconsin and is designated by FEMA as a high risk area for winds. Because Sassie’s House is slab-on-grade construction it is equipped with an ICF saferoom built to FEMA 32 standards. To conserve floorspace the saferoom also serves as the single bathroom.
Energy performance of the home is monitored allowing comparison with both preliminary modeling and with other homes in Eco-Village that have different construction details or mechanical systems.
Builder: Jim Cooper, Project Manager, St Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity | Hudson, WI Architect: Jim Muehlbauer, Frisbie Architects, Inc. | River Falls, WI Developer: Dave Engstrom, Executive Director, St Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity | River Falls, WI Land Planner: Matt Hieb, Auth Consulting & Associates | Hudson, WI
Alternative Building Systems: ICF: FoxBlock; SIP: Extreme Panel Technologies
Door/Hardware: FEMA 320 Saferoom Doors: Securall Doors
Exterior Finishes: Siding, Soffit and Trim: LP Smartside
Fire Protection: Siding, Soffit and Trim: LP Smartside
HVAC/Ducts: Minisplit Heat Pump: Fujitsu 12RLS; In-floor Radiant: Uponor; Mini-boiler: Electro Industries, Inc.
Pavers: Permeable Pavers: Calstar
Renewable Energy System: PV: Solarworld Sunkit
Ventilation: ERV: Zehnder Comfoaire 350
Water Heating: Solar Thermal: Veissmann