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   Repurposed materials contribute to Silver Oak's sustainable style.   View email in your browser

Winery Tackles a Building Challenge
July 2018

Leading by doing: Project manager Haley Duncan

With a bachelor's degree in environmental studies, Haley Duncan had a good foundation for her first big assignment at her family’s Silver Oak Winery. As project manager for the company’s new Alexander Valley winery and tasting room, the 26-year-old has helped direct an ambitious effort to receive both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certification for the facility. If successful—final certifications are pending—the winery will be the first in the world to achieve both.

Silver Oak's new digs: Next-level sustainable

A lot of California wineries are pursuing a more sustainable facility. What is Silver Oak doing in Alexander Valley that’s ahead of the curve?
 
A lot of the technology that we have incorporated in this building is the next level of sustainability. One example is our membrane bioreactor, which some wineries have. It treats the winery process water using natural biological activity and ultrafine screens. Instead of discharging the treated water, we re-use it to do initial cleaning of floors and tanks and to flush toilets. There’s no reason to use well water to do that. The treated water also goes to the cooling tower that cools all our equipment.
       We installed a 330-kilowatt battery attached to a computerized management system. During times of high electrical-grid costs, the battery discharges energy. Even though we have close to a megawatt of solar power on our roofs, there are times during harvest when the panels can’t keep up. In the morning, when grid electricity is expensive, the program would decide to discharge power from the battery.

 

Duncan monitors a dashboard that tracks energy and water use.

How does Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification differ from LEED certification?

LBC is a green-building certification that’s more difficult to achieve than LEED. It covers seven categories or “petals”—materials, energy and water being the big three. For LEED, you get points for installing solar panels that cover 15% of your energy use. For LBC, you’re required to produce 105% of your annual energy needs, so that’s a lot more panels. And it has to be renewable technology on site; you can’t purchase credits. As for water, you’re required to treat and re-use all your own water and gather the water you need on your site. You’re not allowed to connect to the water utility.
       The materials petal requires you to vet every single building material for about 800 toxic chemicals, like BPA, neoprene and lead. I personally vetted about 3,500 materials. A lot of manufacturers don’t want to disclose everything, so you have to find alternatives. In the end, we were very successful in eliminating some not-so-great chemicals, and you could tell because, when we were done with construction, the building did not have that “new building smell.”
 

Tell us about some of your materials choices.
 
The exterior siding for the winery and the tasting room is salvaged redwood. It came from barrels that used to be owned by Robert Mondavi Winery. They phased them out and the staves had been stacked and under cover for years. The interior of the tasting room and parts of the offices are salvaged oak from fire-damaged trees. For most of our walls, we used recycled denim for insulation. It’s just as efficient as fiberglass.
 

Even your landscaping choices got scrutinized.
 
The landscape is irrigated entirely with recycled water and uses only native or adapted plants. We have bay laurel hedges, a lot of California native fescues and bio-swales on either side of our entrance that capture and filter rainwater that runs off from the hardscape.

 

“Health and happiness” is one of the LBC petals. How are you tackling that part?
 
Indoor air-quality testing is part of that petal. Another part is selecting interior materials—carpets, furniture, paint—that meet California Department of Health criteria for emissions. Every work station has to be within 30 feet of an operable window or door. We have a giant break room and two large outdoor patios for employee use. Everybody in the offices has a view. We definitely wanted to design around making employees happy, and I think the employee consensus is only positive.
 

All this investment sounds very costly. Does it make business sense?
 
Some of the largest investments make a lot of sense financially. We all know solar panels have a good ROI. The bioreactor was a significant investment, but its footprint is smaller than a wastewater-treatment pond, so we were able to plant more vines. The battery is cutting-edge technology and supposed to save us a lot on our energy bill.
       Our first priority is always wine quality. That was the constant theme during construction, but we want to be proactive. We know laws are changing, so it made sense to invest the time and resources now and be a leader rather than wait until it’s a requirement.

Copyright 2018 Wine Institute

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See the recent media coverage on California's sustainable wine growing leadership. Highlights include growing participation in the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program, the recent release of the CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE wine logo and Wine Institute's Down to Earth Month celebration. See the roundup of media highlights HERE.
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Resources • Publications

Winery Economic Tools to Assess Costs & Benefits:  
CSWA has a number of tools to help evaluate the costs and benefits of implementing sustainable wine growing practices. The winery tools include: 

Winery Water Efficiency and Hot Spots Tool

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Download individual chapters or the entire workbook to learn more about sustainability in your vineyard or winery HERE.
Workshops & Webinars:

Friday, July 27, 2018:  
Sustainable Winegrowing Field Day, 10:00 –11.30 am, Sonoma
Down to Earth: a monthly newsletter celebrating the commitment of California vintners and growers to sustainable winegrowing and winemaking.
 
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