Rice County law enforcement center 2

This rendering shows the proposed Rice County Law Enforcement Center. (Image courtesy of Rice County)

At a work session on Tuesday, when the sun finally emerged in southern Minnesota, the Rice County Board of Commissioners heard all about one method of controlling its rays.

Tim Finley, a manufacturer’s representative for Faribault’s SageGlass, pitched the electrochromic glass, or “smart glass,” for which the local company is best known, for use in portions of Rice County’s proposed Law Enforcement Center.

On June 7, the commissioners will receive bid numbers for four project options; SageGlass is included in the third of those project proposals.

Because of its electrochromic coating, the smart glass can regulate the glass’s tint with no moving parts.

“It’s a pretty simple solution, using low-voltage control to take the glass from a clear to tinted state, and can react to lighting changes throughout the day,” Finley said.

The glass is more expensive, but it improves energy efficiency and eliminates the need for blinds, awnings or other light-controlling supplements, according to Finley.

Commissioner Steve Underdahl, who serves on the committee overseeing the Public Safety Center’s design, agrees that using SageGlass can result in ultimate cost savings.

“In the grand scheme of things, SageGlass is a relatively new product, but one that does save energy by a reduction in fossil fuels required to heat and cool buildings,” Underdahl said.

“SageGlass also has a dynamic shading factor. We wouldn’t need to buy shades to cover up the windows — so overall, there is savings potential, with some cost savings coming upfront and some more long term in the reduction of energy consumption.”

Commissioners had a few questions for Finley following the presentation, including about the glass control mechanisms and cost. Finley addressed concerns and welcomed the commissioners to visit the local SageGlass factory and showroom to learn more.

“SageGlass has had products in commercial buildings for 15 years,” Finley said. “It’s in at least a half-dozen buildings locally.”

Shattuck-St. Mary’s School has installed sections of SageGlass in its Hub in recent years. And SageGlass is in distinctive buildings including at the University of Minnesota, Princeton University, Ashford Castle in Ireland and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“We typically do large glass buildings, but we are conscious of this being a local project,” said Finley. “We want the opportunity to be in the community, and that would be reflected in the pricing.”

Rice County’s new Law Enforcement Center, which has an estimated cost of $49 million, will be built on 109 acres east of Highway 3 at 30th Street on Faribault’s north side. Groundbreaking may take place before the end of 2022.

Matthew Verdick, Rice County’s director of parks and facilities, believes SageGlass would be an asset to the new building.

“I hope that we are able to use this product as it is from a Rice County business,” said Verdick. “The product would benefit the project and help the building be more efficient while also supporting the county’s goal of being more sustainable.”

Underdahl said commissioners should at least consider the investment.

“It would take some additional dollars upfront, and we would have to evaluate if that fits within our budget,” he said. “But if we can do it, there are benefits, including using a local manufacturer.”

Jane Turpin Moore is a freelance writer. Reach the editor at editor@apgsomn.com.

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