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Sustainable winery architecture: nine ways to save money and the planet.

Driven by a desire to protect natural resources and the environment while improving employee and community relations, winegrape growers have been embracing sustainable vineyard practices in earnest for nearly a decade. But only recently have winemakers begun to implement sustainable winemaking practices that translate into tangible economic savings and help to save the planet.

Whether you're building a new winery or remodeling an existing facility, sustainable winery design leads the list of practices you can implement now to make a difference in the lives of your employees, neighbors and the community at large. The incentives for winery owners to foster environmental stewardship are as socially responsible as they are fiscally rewarding. But how do you implement such lofty ideas?

First, let's look at the staggering environmental toll of building construction and operation. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, in the United States buildings account for:

* 65% of electricity consumption

* 30% of greenhouse gas emissions

* 30% of raw materials use

* 30% of waste output (136 million tons annually)

* 12% of potable water consumption

Sustainable development works to reduce the percentages of these items.

Wine is getting more and more expensive to produce, in large part because of spiraling energy and material costs. Both new and existing wineries that follow sustainable principles in their design and operation can return greater profits because of reduced operating costs and lower energy bills. A side benefit of using these sustainable principles is the creation of healthier working environments that result in higher productivity, less absenteeism and increased retail sales, according to information from "Daylighting and Sustainability" by Joel Loveland (Daylighting Lab Seattle, September 4, 2002; Pacific Gas and Electric and City of Seattle Sustainability Case Studies).

Sustainable architecture relies on a system of balanced components designed specifically to reduce energy consumption and reduce the use of natural resources while improving working environments. If you are embarking on a new project, creating a sustainable winery can be integrated with the design process. If you already own a winery, many of the concepts can still be implemented. Here are nine things you can do to make your winery more sustainable:

1. Reduce heat gain/loss

Increase type or quantity of insulation. Place portions of buildings underground or partially underground to take advantage of the earth's constant temperature. Putting barrel storage areas where their walls can be in contact with the earth usually eliminates the need for cooling. Air movement from the fan coil unit that cools the above ground barrel room dries out the barrels and increases evaporation. To counteract this, many winemakers humidify their spaces, which can have its own detrimental effects. A barrel room that doesn't need cooling will not promote evaporation. Just one barrel of wine or 25 cases saved from evaporation returns profit directly to the bottom line.

2. Increase shading coefficient

Blocking sunlight from building surfaces can dramatically reduce cooling loads. Plant trees along the south and west faces of the winery. Install a wall trellis system to grow vines and shade the wall, or design a sunscreen that both shades the wall and ventilates heat away from its surface, as implemented at Brian Carter Cellars, Woodinville, Wash. This concept can reduce cooling costs dramatically.

3. Increase daylighting levels

Design in additional windows, skylights or clerestories (windows on upper walls) taking care not to allow direct sunlight to fall on a tank or barrel. This will permit the winemaking staff to work in processing and storage areas without the need for artificial light. The obvious benefit here is a reduced electric bill. Daylit wineries can reduce lighting watts by as much as 66%. The spin-off benefit is that it improves staff attitude and efficiency, and reduces sick days. All Boxwood-designed wineries have high clerestory windows or skylights in their processing areas to bring in natural light.

4. Increase views to the outdoors

As above, design additional windows, use glass in roll-up doors and place skylights in subterranean spaces to expand views to the outdoors from as many regularly occupied spaces as possible. The ability to rest one's eyes by looking at a distance and being able to see outside throughout the day achieves the same spin-off benefit as daylighting.

5. Increase natural ventilation

Place windows or louvers at or near the floor level of the winery to bring in cool night air that blankets the ground. By also opening a louver in the upper part of the winery, as at Carlton Winemaker Studio in Carlton, Ore., a 16,000 sq.-ft. shared production facility designed for Eric Hamacher and nine other boutique wineries, a passive ventilating system is created. Hot air that has been accumulated during the day can be exhausted through a louver in the clerestory monitor. The hot air leaving the winery pulls cool night air in the lower louver. This is called "nighttime cooling" or "purging," and can be done without mechanical equipment. Most wineries already have a low and high louver system for C[O.sub.2] evacuation. These same louvers normally bring in fresh air from above and exhaust the C[O.sub.2] at the floor level louver, and could be used in reverse to cool the building at night without running the fan. This process reduces the need for mechanical ventilation and reduces energy usage.

6. Reduce potable water usage

Collect wash-down water, filter it, adjust the pH level and use it for irrigation of the grounds surrounding the winery.

7. Use "cool" materials

If you like metal roofs, some roofing manufacturers have developed a paint that is made with infrared reflecting pigments. This roofing reduces the amount of heat-absorbing light and creates a cool roof even in the color black. Cool roofs reduce heat absorption and cooling costs. On Brian Carter Cellars, we are using four different colors of cool metal roofing not only to reduce heat gain but also to create a pattern that is similar to the art on the wine labels.

8. Adapt buildings to new use

If you have a winery that you would like to tear down and replace, consider remodeling it or giving it a second life with another use, perhaps as a case storage facility, as Hightower Cellars is doing. Hightower is currently making wine in a recycled horse barn that it has sterilized and insulated. It works well at the winery's current production capacity; however, the plans are to more than triple case sales over the next 10 years. Boxwood developed a master plan to keep the existing winery in operation while a new one is built adjacent to it. The new winery can be smaller, use less resources and cost less because the existing facility will be used as a case storage room and saved from the landfill.

9. Create buildings with mass

A "thin wall" building with a metal skin and batt insulation allows heat (and cold) to penetrate more quickly than a "thick wall" building made from concrete, masonry or stone and sandwiched insulation. Thick wall buildings absorb heat all day long, and release it at night with little impact on the interior temperature. Col Solare, a partnership between Tuscany's Antinori and Washington's Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, uses a heavy mass wall to create a subterranean chai for its barrel storage. (In its French origins, "chai" often describes an aboveground structure used for wine storage and aging.) Because mass walls are more expensive than thin wall systems, Waters Winery in Walla Walla, Wash., utilizes mass only in the barrel storage areas to maximize its construction dollars.

These are just a few of the dozens of design principles that we employ in the wineries that Boxwood designs. The long-term operational savings each of these principles provides help offset some of the initial cost of the more expensive options. Many do not add any initial cost. If the improved operating economics of each winery and the increased profit margin on every bottle sold is not enough of a benefit, the improved working environments, healthier staffs, higher productivities and increased retail sales most certainly should be. By considering our planet's ecology, its effect on our long-term economics and taking our part in the development of an equitable community, there is a bonus for everyone.

(Joe Chauncey founded Boxwood, a Seattle architectural firm specializing in holistic design solutions, in 1989. The firm has completed several wineries in Washington and Oregon and the entire professional staff is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. To comment on this article, e-mail


** The incentives for incorporating sustainable principles in winery architecture are both economic and social.

** Wineries have lagged behind vineyards in adopting environmentally friendly practices that are also good for the profit margin.

** Key elements of sustainable winery architecture are reducing heat gain/loss, using more natural light and choosing materials that help accomplish these goals.
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Author:Chauncey, Joe
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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