In July, the St. Anthony Retreat Center community gathered to bless the completed St. Junipero Serra Chapel, capping off a decade of planning and construction, and marking the completion of the Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center.
The youth center is set among the blue oak woodlands on 25 acres of rolling hills. In addition to the chapel, the facility offers ample assembly and meeting spaces, a saltwater swimming pool, and two dormitory buildings that can accommodate over 100 youth and adult chaperones.
An ambitious project for the Catholic Diocese of Fresno was made even more so because cutting-edge building practices were used in the planning and construction.
“The architect broke up buildings that had large areas, creating two dorm wings with separate meeting rooms,” Father John Griesbach explained. “It’s working backward from the traditional way of building, altering building plans to fit the space.”
This is an eco-friendly way of working with the available space, referred to as the design-build method. This allowed for a minimum of disturbance to the natural surroundings.
“We only cut down 32 trees within the entire building site,” Father John said. “Our goal was to have the least impact on nature. The felled trees were used to build wildlife habitats on the property.”
With placement of the buildings carefully decided upon, the walls of the buildings went up using Logix blocks — think giant foam Legos. The blocks have three-inch-thick walls and are filled with cement and reinforced with steel rebar.
There is a measurable benefit to this type of wall construction. In terms of energy savings, it is 80 percent cheaper to heat and cool the youth center buildings in comparison to St. Anthony’s structures, which were built 50 years ago, said Fr. John.
There is another significant financial benefit to this unique building material. An estimated cost per square foot by the contractor puts costs at roughly $135 per square foot in comparison to an average of $200 using traditional materials.
Added safety is yet another result of the Logix block wall-building technology. The foam and cement walls combined with cement tile roofing render the Santa Teresita buildings virtually fireproof.
“These walls can take four hours of direct heat before they will ignite,” Fr. John continued. “The only potential threat to the buildings, we’ll see how they hold up to sophomores!”
Logix blocks were also used in the construction of the outdoor swimming pool, which has shown an added pool heating efficiency.
The eco-friendly initiatives don’t stop there. The water system takes wastewater and turns it into gray water that is used to irrigate the verdant property.
The Conference Center also has dark-sky-friendly lighting. All of the outdoor lighting is configured to minimize glare while reducing light trespass and skyglow.
The last major construction project planned for the Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center is to install a solar panel field. An ideal a south-facing hillside has been selected for the ground mounted panels. It is estimated that the permit-approval process through SCE will take a year or more.