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Saint Francis Center Earns a LEED® Silver Rating: RATCLIFF Designs Unique Recycling, Educational and Housing Facility


Saint Francis Center and RATCLIFF are pleased to announce that the non-profit’s La Casa building earned a LEED® Silver certification rating from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) last month. La Casa houses Saint Francis Center’s essential services for families in need in the Redwood City area, including housing, clothing, food, and education. The structure earned innovation recognition from the USGBC for its efficient recycling programs that divert tons of donated food and clothing items from landfills and place them in the hands of more than 3,000 individuals each month.

A unique combination of programs, the three-story La Casa building was designed to make the most of every inch:

  • First floor: Clothing and food donation and distribution services; laundry and shower facility for the homeless; toy storage for Christmas and monthly giveaways; and administrative offices
  • Second Floor: Holy Family School, a classroom for twelve students who are educated from Kindergarten through fifth grade; classrooms for adults to complete GED and ESL courses; and offices for the Women’s Initiative, a program that assists lower-income women to escape poverty through business ownership
  • Third floor: three low-income rental units for 14 residents.

La Casa is designed with separate entrances to accommodate and provide security for each of its diverse programs. Rather than resembling a large institution, its warm Spanish-style design and welcoming front garden provide the building with a suburban charm.

“La Casa is environmentally friendly and that is very important to us. The health of the building is beneficial to the health of our clients,” said Sr. Christina Heltsley, EdD, Saint Francis Center’s executive director. “Also, our new clothing distribution center is as dignified and attractive as a Nordstrom’s display area, showing the respect we have for our clients as they select the items they need.”

RATCLIFF’s unique design for the 10,400-square-foot structure incorporates a wide range of environmentally-responsible tenets, including:

  • Building as a Recycling Station-Saint Francis Center promotes social responsibility through recycling and diverting wastes from landfills. Efficient space planning resulted in a 100 percent increase in the amount and dollar value of donated clothing being diverted from landfill each year.
  • Green Building Education-In addition to installing signage throughout the building that denotes its sustainable design features, Saint Francis Center provides a sustainable environment curriculum to its K-5 students. The set of 50 lesson plans from the California Integrated Waste Management Board help students discover and nurture an environmental ethic and stewardship for natural resources.
  • Stormwater Management-The project includes a bioswale to capture and treat rooftop stormwater run-off.
  • Water Efficient Landscaping-The front garden with seating for clients was landscaped with drought-tolerant local species that will not require irrigation after the plants have established their roots.
  • Energy Efficiency-The building is 17 percent more energy efficient than the national standard for a comparable structure. The keys to this accomplishment are intelligent building controls, and energy-efficient mechanical systems, and lighting.
  • Local/Regional Materials-RATCLIFF selected 35 percent of the total building products that were manufactured from materials within the region.

W.L. Butler Construction was the project contractor and The Oak Hill Fund was the major donor assisting Saint Francis Center to achieve the LEED Silver certification. The USGBC awards different levels of LEED certification (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum) based on the total credits earned.

“There is a temptation for nonprofits with capital projects to avoid the LEED rating system because it can be complex and expensive,” said Sr. Heltsley. “If a small social services organization like Saint Francis Center can do it, any nonprofit can. If nonprofits don’t lead the way for the environment, who will?” Founded in 1986, the St. Francis Center provides the local community with essential services such as housing, food, clothing and education. The nonprofit’s motto is: “Compassion Not Judgment.”

Established in April 2002, The Oak Hill Fund (OHF) promotes the well-being of mankind through effective and inspiring grantmaking and is located in Charlottesville, Virginia.