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Construction takes off on PrairiE Loft apartments

Lead Summary
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Lori Sorenson

In the few short weeks since groundbreaking, construction on the apartment buildings at Hatting Street and Highway 75 has progressed rapidly.
Foundations are poured, plumbing is roughed in, and prep work is underway for pouring concrete slabs next week, weather permitting.
After that, framing will begin in January, and 10 to 12 weeks later the roof will go on.
“Getting concrete poured is our big hurdle,” said Luverne developer Don Jahnke of Midwest Sustainable Construction.
Each building footprint is 9,000 square feet — about the size of two high school basketball gyms. They’ll each require 112 yards of concrete that will need time to cure.
Jahnke and general contractor Mike Bourquin and investor Aaron Smith of Greensmith Builders were on site Friday to share a progress report.
The $8 million project is known as PrairiE Loft 1 and PrairiE Loft 2 apartments, with the capital E representing “environmental sustainability and smart building practices.”
Construction will use “Extreme Structural Insulated Panels,” high performance heat pumps, in-floor heat and LED lighting that qualifies for Energy Star and the Net Zero Ready Program.
Jahnke said each unit will have an energy recovery ventilator — a fresh air machine — that brings outside fresh air in, exchanges it with hot or cold air, and keeps the fresh air circulating throughout.
“They’re the lungs of the building,” Jahnke said, adding that features like these are typically seen in luxury homes.
The units will be finished with GRI FloorScore®-rated flooring with carpet in bedrooms, and kitchens will have granite countertops. FloorScore® is a third-party certification that measures risks to indoor air quality — specifically volatile organic compounds in surfaces and finishes.
Greensmith Builders invests in green building projects nationwide, primarily in small communities, but Smith said this is the company’s first project with structurally insulated panels.
“They’re super insulated, and super air-tight, which is great, but the really nice part is they go together like Legos,” Smith said, describing the 9-by-8-foot interlocking panels made in Cottonwood.
“You just drop these in with the crane, and it will happen really quickly.”
Ten to 12 weeks after that, the roof will go on.
“That’s really one of the big advantages, as we see it,” Smith said. “Not only is it this great insulation — which helps with better efficiency, but from a production standpoint, it’s so much faster to build. We’ll be able to open the buildings months ahead of a traditional building schedule.”
Bourquin said the time saving is due to work done ahead on panels that are manufactured in a climate-controlled environment and are delivered with window cutouts and other features already in place.
“We figure we save two to three trips of people around that building by using the panels. They’re pre-insulated and pre-sheathed,” he said.
“As soon as there’s a roof on, we’re turning on a heat, whereas other times, you’d have to go around get wiring done and insulation in. We can get other contractors in, because you have this work done ahead of time.”
He said the materials are more expensive up front to build with, but that’s offset by the time saving.
Ultimately, renters will benefit from the efficiencies, Smith said.
“We all live in Minnesota. Your rent is one thing, but if your heating bill in the wintertime is $200-$300 per month and you budgeted for rent, it can be crushing for people,” Smith said.
“Both these buildings are modeled for less than $20 per month for heating and cooling.”
The two buildings will have one- and two-bedroom units on three floors with elevators and off-street parking.
The north building is progressing slightly ahead of the south building, which needed extra dirt work to keep it at grade with the rest of the property.
Smith said the unit will be above street level and will have a retaining wall on the east side, and a drainage pond will help with storm water runoff.
“That south building looking east and south, you look across the field and to the retaining … that’s going to be a nice view,” he said.
“Even in that first-floor unit, you’re enough above the road you probably won’t see it looking out the window. You’ll look out to the field.”
First Farmers & Merchants Bank in LeSueur, is providing local financing along with Greensmith and a federal PACE loan (property assessed clean energy), which finances energy-efficient and renewable energy projects on private property.
In addition to the property purchase, site work and other investments, the city of Luverne also provided a $550,000 deferred loan for the project.

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