The Refinery, a place for remaking young lives

Saddleback Church’s LEED certified youth center is open to its community.

By Ronald E Keener

It’s called The Refinery, for the young lives it is intended to mold and refine, who use its facilities. Saddleback Church’s youth center that opened more than a year ago is as much a community center too, providing a venue for events, weddings and sports.

More recently, the facility received the Gold certificate of the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) of the U.S. Green Building Council.

And “green” it is. The planners installed a “green roof” that will help remove pollutants from storm water, reduce air conditioning needs and minimize the amount of heat that radiates from the building. The large amounts of sand around the property allow rain water to be absorbed into the earth instead of running off into the storm drains.

Do not disturb

There is a layer of sand under the grass areas as well. Pollutants are filtered out before the water goes into a nearby stream. The facility is located 300 feet away from sensitive wildlife habitats and lighting was directed to keep to a minimum the disturbance of nocturnal wildlife.

Light color concrete and roofing were selected to absorb less of the sun’s heat and reduce the heat island affect of the building. Reclaimed water is used to irrigate the landscaping which consists mostly of native and drought tolerant plants. Water is conserved by using low flow faucets, urinals and toilets.

The church says it will use 40 percent less water and consume 35 percent less energy than most buildings its size in California. Low E glass is used throughout the building to prevent heat transfer into the building.

Protect the atmosphere

Windows are located to maximize day lighting, including a large window in the ceiling. Refrigerants used in the chillers and refrigerators do not harm the atmosphere. The plywood is formaldehyde free and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Recycled materials were used as much as possible in the building, including the steel, wall framing, concrete and wall board. Ninety-five percent of the waste generated during construction was recycled.

The floor in the “Diner” is made of wood brought up from a riverbed, so no trees were cut to make the floor. Many materials in the building are from the local area, thus minimizing the use of fuel to transport the items to the site.

Checking the air quality

The air quality was tested before the building opened and the equipment involved with the systems. Carbon dioxide and the amount of fresh air in the system are monitored to keep the air healthy. Low VOC paint, sealants and adhesives were used. Much of what looks like brick or stone is actually plaster.

The facility is based on a California industrial beach theme. An outdoor baptismal pool has heaters and the water level can be changed for different uses. In one area geysers of water shoot out of the concrete floor to entertain the children.

Inside the main building LED lights inserted into the concrete floor create interest. Much of the creative aspects of the facility, and cost-savings construction, came from the creative mind of Tim Loza, then project manager on staff, now with his own firm Loza Water Works. Much of the facility’s inventive nuances came from his imagination, skill in theming and construction background.

There’s a skate board area, a deli, and a 200-seat theater. Also a fellowship area of pool tables, ping pong, games and an old time jukebox. The 45,000-square-foot facility came at a cost of $19 million. Is there anything they didn’t get? “More storage space,” says Karen Kelly, facility development director then, now a consultant to the church.

From the time of initial design to the day construction began prices for steel and concrete more than doubled. Along the way, tough choices had to be made from the original design to shrink the footprint of the building to come within budget. But today, the church and its youth see The Refinery as “something incredible” — well equipped to do the job it was intended to do with young lives.


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