LEED BD+C: New Construction v2.2
UC Davis Brewery, Winery and Food
LEED Platinum 2010
* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.
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Goals and successes
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
This did not begin as a LEED project. We started it over ten years ago and it was part of a larger plan for the gateway to our campus with the initial goal of becoming a first-class facility, top in the world in terms of teaching and research for wine and beer.
The Special Collections room houses donated wines used in teaching the next generation of wine makers. The room features recycled glass in the floor and reclaimed wood from a California water aqueduct in the ceiling. (Photo by Robert Canfield)
But as we saw that the industry wanted more sustainability, the campus decided the building should be LEED Gold. In the end, a large goal was to make the facility sustainable. Still, we focused on providing a facility that was beyond anything we knew about in terms of being able to do the teaching and research for its beer, wine, and food program elements.
The University of California Board of Regents originally established LEED-independent sustainability goals that ultimately positioned the project as a model of sustainable practices in the industries it serves. These goals included building systems monitoring and control to allow a high degree of experimental reproducibility, and net zero landscape water use. As the program evolved, the University established a LEED for New Construction Gold goal for the project, consistent with campus standards. A Platinum option was eventually made possible by additional private donor funding.
What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?
The motivations for LEED certification included the integrated design process, environmental impact reduction and recognition. UC Davis sees value in measuring and reducing its footprint and utilizing state of the art technologies to advance knowledge of high performance buildings. With help from the University’s commissioning team, the project is able to carefully measure and ensure that all systems are working at top performance. The university is interested in being a leader for building state of the art facilities and sees the clear benefit of an integrated design process that is established by using the design-build model with a LEED overlay.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
For me, the greatest success was that we could deliver the program for the money and schedule that we had. That had everything to do with the design-build approach and the team chosen. Another top success was to be able to deliver a project that the industry is proud of and wants to be part of. The industry is so proud of how beautiful the building is, while also being highly functional and meeting sustainability goals.
As the first-ever design-build project delivered in the UC system without preliminary bridging documents, the highest scoring LEED for New Construction facility in the UC system, and the world’s first Platinum winery, the project provides a model for sustainability in the viticulture, brewing, and food science disciplines. Outside of the LEED framework, the project demonstrates a successful divergence from the traditional campus aesthetic and provides a model of form dictated by sustainable function.
Design-build delivery is relatively new for academic/institutional projects. This approach was essential to address a lean construction budget and as carried forward, demonstrated a successful application of integrated design principles. Donor funding was ultimately contingent on achieving the highest level of performance within the LEED system. This was clear evidence that LEED continues to provide a valid analytic model and a strong basis for public engagement. Peer approval may serve as an objective judgment of quality. The recipient of eight design awards to date, this project demonstrates that informed simplicity in architectural expression is fundamental to sustainability and has potential to attain the poetic.
The design-build team worked well together to deliver a quality end product that meets the end user needs and achieved LEED Platinum.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
For this project, many months of the year, the photovoltaics (PVs) may actually provide all of the demand; when processing (peak in August and September), this is less. A power purchase agreement (PPA) was initiated because of this project, which was exciting. We haven’t used much PVs on campus – not since 20 years ago. It is hard for us to financially make sense of it, so we pay a pretty low negotiated rate and flat rate for electricity. When you look at payback, it ends up going years out.
We didn’t really want to purchase renewable energy because it didn’t seem like the right thing to do with capital dollars; this made it become a larger project. We bought for eight buildings throughout the campus; we did it this way because of capital cost. We went out and bid it and have had a really good relationship with the provider getting the PVs installed. This is something we’re doing to support green energy and renewables, but we would actually pay a cheaper price if we did not do this. As a university, we do not get incentives or qualify for tax breaks.
Achieving net-zero water use in the landscape, particularly in the semi-arid central valley, required a novel approach atypical of traditional campus development. The design team researched plant communities that would survive with no irrigation, and deemed these incompatible with the existing campus context and neighborhood, requirements for passive and active use, aesthetic expectations, and ability to be maintained by existing staff, processes, and equipment. The ultimate solution, a rainwater harvesting system providing landscape irrigation water for half-acre of traditional low-water use landscape and sewage conveyance water for the building’s lavatories, is the first commercial-scale rainwater harvesting installation in the central valley. During the design team’s precedent survey, several smaller rainwater harvesting systems were investigated. Significant existing data on rainwater quantity was used in the design, however, no data on rainwater quality is available. The project accordingly included provisions for sampling rainwater at various stages of collection and treatment to allow data collection and support the University’s role as a leading research institution. Additionally, the project includes measurement and reporting (via the University central irrigation control system) of landscape water use, which may be used to develop additional locally specific data for plant water use.
Rainwater collection tanks (Photo by UC Davis)
The site and landscape was designed to optimize shade and the usable area, minimize irrigation water demand, and maximize irrigation efficiency. Water demand was reduced to the greatest extent possible through the exclusive use of native or adapted plant material and sub-surface drip irrigation. Almost half of the net landscape area is devoted to native grasslands, including a large detention basin and edge transition areas. In addition to contributing to credits SS credit 5.1 and SS credit 5.2, this native typology has significant ecological benefits. Planted in an agricultural grid, large bunch grasses at the perimeter buffer existing natural areas and provide a conduit for wildlife while decreasing the transfer of non-native species. Water-tolerant perennial grasses and sedges within the detention basin provide "first-flush" treatment through phytoremediation of captured water, providing excellent water quality. Sodded and plugged grasses provide didactic opportunities adjacent the buildings’ main entry, and all areas of native grasses greatly reduce the resource requirements of traditional landscape.
Still, another one-half acre of traditionally planted landscape, along with sewage conveyance water for building lavatories, requires a cumulative storage volume of 176,000 gallons throughout the summer months. To meet this demand, a rainwater harvesting system was designed using a using a monthly water budget approach that balances historical evapotranspiration and precipitation data to minimize costly storage requirements. This system consists of several components, including: surface and underground drainage, a vegetated bioswale, a lift station, storage tanks and piping, and a treatment system. This system contributed to SS credits 6.1 and 6.2, and WE credits 1.1 and 1.2.
UC Davis researchers were consulted on how to build the swale to provide for proper slope and drainage and allow the plants to thrive. The purple pipe is temporary irrigation. (Photo by UC Davis)
Because the building is a federally-regulated food-processing plant and the stored water is used inside, biological control of the stored rainwater was required. Ozone injection, which provides system-wide control through residual effects, was selected. Throughout the system, provisions for ongoing monitoring of both water quantity and quality have been included to facilitate ongoing data collection and support the University’s mission as a research institution.
The swale has filled in after just one growing season. (Photo by UC Davis)
Located on an academic campus, the absence of property lines allowed for adjustments of project boundaries to address site habitat open space (Sustainable Sites credits 5.1 and 5.2). The relatively large site area (2.5 acres) and ability to adjust boundaries provided effective tributary area and storage for captured stormwater (Sustainable Sites credits 6.1 and 6.2). Captured stormwater provides all irrigation requirements (Water Efficiency credits 1.1. and 1.2). In addition, by supplying all domestic non-potable needs, the system supports Innovative Wastewater Technologies (Water Efficiency credit 2) and Water Use Reduction (Water Efficiency credits 3.1 and 3.2).
Aerial view of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. The RMI is made up of the North and South lab buildings, the Sensory Lab and the Brewery, Winery and Food Science building. The BWF now has PV panels installed on its roof. (Photo by UC Davis)
The integrated design process reduced conditioning loads through enhanced envelope and night-purge ventilation (Energy & Atmosphere credit 1). Photovoltaic panels provide 120,000 kWh per year. Obtained by a Power Purchase Agreement, the roof-mounted array contributes more than 17.5% of building electrical demands (Energy & Atmosphere credit 2).
Economy in design supported the use of locally manufactured materials with recycled content (Materials & Resources credits 4.1, 4.2, 5.1 and 5.2). "Kirei Board," an agrifiber product, provided desirable aesthetic character and helped meet Rapidly Renewable criteria (Materials & Resources credit 6). Material selection and system design met all points in this category. Cellular polycarbonate panels at the clerestory helped to meet effective daylight criteria with relatively high (R4) thermal performance (Indoor Environmental Quality credit 8.1). Extensive interior glazing addressed program requirements for visual connection and provided views to the exterior (Indoor Environmental Quality credit 8.2).
Perhaps over-relied on, green building education is fundamental to this building’s purpose. With the general goal of leading industrial applications to reduce consumption/ environmental impact, “Exemplary Performance” in waste management (Materials & Resources credit 2), water use reduction (Water Efficiency credit 3), and on-site power generation (Energy & Atmosphere credit 2) were seen as signal efforts.
Documenting LEED credits requires proper organization and cooperation from all team members starting from project conception. The design-build team – including the general contractor, end users, MEP, structural and exterior skin design team, etc. – all were cognizant of the goal of a green building and sustainable building practices from day one. This goal was kept in mind for each element of the design and material selection process. A good example of this is the rainwater harvest system, which required cooperative design and input from several team members, including civil, landscaping, plumbing, controls, architectural, contractor and end user input. The collaboration of all team members was important to achieving unique system.
Another important technique implemented was the early organization of documentation. Materials were reviewed during the selection and submittal process for recycled content, rapidly renewable content, VOCs, FSC certification, regional materials, etc. A high level of cooperation between the vendors and design team allowed us to suggest and implement alternate products with a higher level of sustainable qualities. For example, the casework manufacturer suggested a handful of alternate wood types with a higher percentage of FSC content for the architect’s selection of casework in the special collections cellar. All vendors and subcontractors were required to complete a summary sheet of material credits during the submittal review process. This helped determine if we were selecting the best products to meet our green building goal. For example, it was discovered that sheet rock typically comes from a larger factory across the country, when there was a smaller factory only 450 miles away. Thus, we encouraged the supplier to purchase the material from the nearby factory, thus saving on shipping distances and emissions and contributing to LEED Regional Material credits.
What additional green strategies did not directly contribute to a LEED credit?
It was important to this project that UC Davis had an extraordinarily broad-minded position. They provided the ok for things like siting agricultural buildings as a design influence and putting 25,000-gallon storage tanks on the front lawn. Had the university not engaged at this level, this project could not have happened.
A principal goal is to monitor water and energy use as well as output from process waste. This data is measured via meters and connected to electronic collection systems.
Fermenters will be cleaned using a clean-in-place (CIP) system to reduce usage of water, energy, and chemicals. Water is captured, recycled, and organic matter is removed with the goal of reusing water eight times. Carbon dioxide produced during fermentation is sequestered through a calcium hydroxide scrubber to maintain concentration levels below 5,000 ppm for an average eight-hour day. An eventual goal is to convert carbon into a solid element to supplement soil conditions.
Reused redwood from water aqueduct piping was used for the special collections cellar ceiling, creating a unique architectural feature with a sustainable story. Polished concrete was used as the finished floor in public spaces, including corridors and restrooms.
What cutting-edge strategies or processes were implemented?
The rainwater harvesting implemented on this project provides a graceful and simple method for capturing winter rainfall and using it in drier months. For project sites that have enough square footage, the capture of rainwater is a natural design choice that is regularly left off of projects due to complexity, fear and regulations. I’m proud of this project for implementing this important strategy, especially in a visible place along the east side of the building, visible to Highway 80 traffic. The rainwater cisterns fit the project aesthetic and provide a clear example of how to capture and use this precious resource.
What unique strategies were applied specifically because of climate or region?
To achieve the stated goal of zero landscape water use, alternative strategies were evaluated, including zero water use landscaping and use of university utility water for landscape irrigation. In California's Central Valley, which experiences high temperatures and limited rainfall, this requires almost exclusive use of perennial native bunch grasses. These grasses are generally dormant from May through November and do not harmonize with the adjacent landscape at the Robert Mondavi Institute building or parking lot. While native grasses are included in the landscape area to minimize water use, they are generally restricted to the south service area and west perimeter of the site.
The bioswale at the west edge of the site allows for retention and natural filtration of collected rainwater before reaching the storage tanks. (Photo by UC Davis)
Additionally, a review of online USGBC Credit Interpretation Requests (CIRs) revealed that water supplied by a well generally has to be offset by equal infiltration, essentially using the ground as a storage device. A soils percolation test would first need to be performed to determine feasibility. However, pumped water in the local area, especially from shallow depths, has demonstrated quality issues including high levels of boron, salt, and minerals. Directly capturing rainwater avoids these issues. Ultimately, because of the challenges inherent with these strategies, exacerbated by local conditions, the rainwater harvesting option was selected
The landscape is native with low watering needs. This coupled with the subsurface irrigation supports minimal irrigation. (Photo by UC Davis)
What products were most effective in helping to meet project goals?
With Platinum certification as a donor expectation, LEED guidelines strongly informed product selection. Some products and materials that contributed both to performance as well as to project goals were: For the site, above-grade, corrugated metal cisterns were used to store harvested stormwater and contribute to the agricultural character of the building. For the envelope, a “Geopier” foundation system – crushed rock, densely compacted into drilled cavities – was selected as an alternate to concrete piers. Structural steel was a reliable primary contributor to recycled content with cement plaster and metal products meeting requirements for regional manufacture. Cellular polycarbonate panels at the clerestory helped to meet effective daylight criteria with relatively high thermal performance (R4). For the interior, agrifiber panels addressed the agricultural aesthetic as a renewable resource (MRc6) and wood products met FSC criteria. Tubular skylights introduce natural daylight to interior program spaces; light dampers within the tubes allow control of the light level, similar to a dimmer switch.
Several unique products were used in this project. For example, Kirei board, manufactured from rapidly renewable straw, not only added character to the corridors as an accent to entrance soffits and below windows, it also contributed to the LEED Materials & Resources rapidly renewable credit. Epoxy flooring, which contains rapidly renewable linseed oil, was the flooring selected throughout the labs. These two products allowed us to achieve an unexpected LEED point for rapidly renewable content. Additionally, the structural engineer specified a concrete mix with a high percentage of flyash, which is a recycled component. Thus, all the concrete footings and slabs contributed to exemplary LEED points for high recycled content.
How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?
It took over ten years to build this project. About four years ago, UC Davis had only done three design-build projects at that time. I had done two (a classroom facility and a child care center) and both were successful; we got good teams. We had already hired a design professional previously, but were struggling with efficiency of design because people got romanticized by wine facility.
The University received a significant donation of 152 customized research fermenters allowing precise control and remote monitoring of the wine making process. (Photo by UC Davis)
Just as much, this is a teaching and research facility, and it was hard for people to put their arms around this.
But in the end, the mechanical and civil engineer and the landscape architect all put numbers out there and were really open. We talked through design ideas and there was never an “us/them” mentality. Everyone came with an energy and was so excited to be part of it. When conflicts arose and issues came up where we hadn’t budgeted for something, it was something we wanted to solve together. Having people at the table committed to the project in that way really helped. We also got the contractor in early and really worked with them – instead of taking a “we’ll design and you build it” approach.
We couldn’t have done this ourselves. We were in the position of orchestrating the landscaping and rainwater harvest system primarily because we hold the key to demand. The flip side to demand is supply, and we relied heavily and really had a great back-and-forth with our civil engineer on that and with our MEP on supporting the design, doing a peer review, and validating the inputs and outputs on the tanks and piping and storage system. It was a fun process because this was something that had not been done before. We took existing ideas and made them into a design that would work with the existing facility, the site, and the maintenance structure of UC Davis in the way they partition management – all in a way that allows for future expansion that hopefully provides enough water for the landscape without excessive cost. It was really great to integrate all the disciplines and get the other stakeholders' perspectives on other projects. They helped us flesh out all of the initial concepts. Treating, reusing, and conserving on-site water both inside and outside the building required the collaboration of almost all disciplines, including landscape architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and plumbing, electrical engineering, and architecture. The rainwater harvesting strategy, including overall site and landscape design, achieved key project goals (LEED and non-LEED), reduces stormwater runoff volumes, and treats over 90 percent of all stormwater on-site.
Throughout the project, there were a host of meetings and discussions where we’d consider options and the university’s preferences – conversations about things like, "Do we want to have an automatic alarm or have a person in the loop so it’s not a random, automated cycle?" It was a very collaborative approach from all sides, not just from the design-build side, but the client was intimately involved, as well. UC Davis' Julianne Nola was great at corralling different departments and divisions in UC Davis to identify limited options – narrowing down to four from 18, asking which will make everyone's job easier in the long term.
Design-build delivery was essential to achieve LEED Platinum performance within a lean construction budget. The process was very successful because all of the stakeholders participated, down to major subcontractors and consultants who had a relatively small role on the project. Every university should consider the design-build model.
Close collaboration between the architect and builder validated constructability and the relative costs of design considerations within the first eight weeks, and we knew for which LEED points we could guarantee a solid level of achievement. This ensured that sustainability goals were present in the final result and we had so much certainty going in. UC Davis’s approach – clear direction, transparent process, and guiding sustainability in a meaningful and very direct way – made it a successful relationship. There were few on this project who weren’t LEED APs – the builder’s core team, university representatives and major design disciplines were all LEED APs – so there was no learning curve.
Through integrated design, systems and components were evaluated for cost effectiveness and contribution to the overall building performance. High net-to-gross efficiency in design (about 85%) aligned program, quality and budget. Reduced material quantities and operating demands allocated more funds for sustainable features.
Listen to architect Stevens William describe the design-build process used in this project.
The design-build delivery method allowed us to evaluate solutions as a team rather than as individual stakeholders. It was much easier to evaluate impacts of design decisions and construction solutions with the design team contracted under the builder. We would have had more difficulty working through a successful design solution for the rainwater harvesting without the collaborative input of the landscape architect, civil engineer, plumbing engineer, architect and UC Davis.
In regards to the rainwater system, one issue we handled collaboratively was the lack of a code precedence for it. A lot of research was done, mostly on the part of the landscape architect. There was an added layer of code review because this building was reusing water for a food facility – to the level of how a toilet flush could contaminate the air and get into the food processing area of the building. As a result, there was a lot of throwing out ideas and not having a code specifically saying what we could or could not do. In the end, UC Davis asked us to install a system to filter the water. Together, we – the mechanical engineer, landscape architect, UC Davis and us as the contractor – investigated a number of systems during construction. This involved a lot of meetings with everyone coming together to collaboratively come to a solution. We ended up putting in an ozone system. It took very tight coordination to get this to happen and get everyone to come to terms with the code portion of it.
Which building codes, zoning or regulatory requirements influenced decisions and how?
California Plumbing Code (CPC) is severely restrictive in the use of greywater, prohibiting all but minor landscape irrigation use outside the building. Absent local agency codes or ordinances superseding CPC, the design team opted not to pursue greywater as a water source. Further, California (and other local agencies) offers no guidance for the use of non-potable water inside the building. Absent any guidance from CPC, Federal EPA standards (US EPA, “Guidelines for Water Reuse, 2004) were used, and in this case, exceeded. The ultimate design of the rainwater harvesting system, and in particular, use of harvested rainwater inside the building, was supported by the University’s original charter by the California State Legislature as a research institution granted the authority to construct and operate experimental facilities. Note that the project was also developed prior to the adoption of CALGREEN, which “encourages the use of alternative water, including rainwater harvesting.”
When was energy modeling used and how effective was it?
This project was delivered through a competitive, eight-week, design-build selection process. Early energy modeling provided proof of concept and gained assurance that performance requirements could be met within the submitted cost proposal. The EcoTect program provided a graphically engaging depiction of the building and demonstrated that the design could meet LEED daylight criteria. After award, these findings were proven out and refined with IES (Integrated Environmental Solutions) modeling.
The eQUEST program was used at the onset to generate initial projections of building energy use. Though systems selection could not be confirmed within the eight-week competition phase, this effort did contribute one key understanding: first evidence that a high-performance building envelope could significantly reduce loads and support the selection of smaller, less-costly mechanical equipment. After award, more definitive calculations with eQUEST confirmed systems design supported the LEED Energy & Atmosphere submittal.
Energy modeling was done and was effective in helping during the design process. The project also participated in the PG&E Savings by Design program, which required energy modeling. Daylight modeling was also done, which was very helpful in determining placement of solatubes, clerestory and other glazing elements.
What value did commissioning add?
We have been doing commissioning for a long time on the campus and have a commissioning agent on campus. We get more organized about it each time. It’s amazing how much easier it is when you resolve issues in construction and when the contractor is on-site. On this project, there were a number of issues called out in the commissioning that were resolved.
The commissioning agent required full testing of the rainwater harvesting system to design capacity, including storage volume, tank interoperability, and the ability of each redundant booster pump to sustain the system individually. Several issues relating to integration of the Building Automation System and monitoring of the rainwater harvesting system were identified and resolved. The commissioning agent was very diligent in making sure the system preformed to the stated specs.
Because of the plumbing code, the stated specs were extreme – basically, we needed to be able to flush every toilet and urinal in the building at the same time and still have surplus pressure and flow. The commissioning agent's diligence made the design and the ultimate product better and more robust for the client; if they expand in the future, there’s the ability for the system to handle whatever use the building receives.
UC Davis has an extensive commissioning program in place, which was successful in helping identify issues with the rainwater system, including valves that were incorrectly installed (backwards) and controls that weren’t functioning properly. The commissioning process also helped identify issues with temperature- and humidity-controlled spaces critical to the wine fermentation process.
What synergies impacted the project and how?
Stormwater collection provides the most evident synergy for this project. A direct approach to stormwater management, collection measures indirectly contributed to site development and heat island criteria in the LEED Sustainable Sites category. The captured water, in turn, supported the design to achieve all LEED Water Efficiency credits. Beyond LEED, the water storage tanks were visible evidence of sustainability and have become a signature feature of the facility.
Diagram showing stormwater reuse through cisterns and bioswales (Courtesy of HLA Group)
What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?
The rainwater harvesting system is not expected to provide a directly measurable ROI, though it should be noted that ROI was not a factor leading to the selection of this strategy. Of note, the dollar cost of utility water normally used by the University for landscape irrigation is extremely marginal, essentially equivalent to the electrical cost of pumping groundwater. Other non-monetized factors, such as groundwater resource depletion, damage to local ecosystems and hydrologic function, and irreparable subsidence resulting in permanent loss of groundwater storage capacity were not able to be factored into the ROI equation.
A great benefit of the design-build approach was our creation of a special exterior perimeter wall assembly to provide thermal bridging. Working with the vendors, we arrived at a system with a high-performance envelope and specialized details that were direct contributions of the skilled trades – for example, running pipe services through the walls and applying stucco. This was not hugely expensive and early energy modeling showed that it was a solid investment to make; we knew within the first week that having a high-performance envelope would benefit the mechanical systems.
Integrated envelope design, separate zoning of laboratories, and acceptance of a higher ambient temperature range for process facilities results in a 34 percent improvement over California Title 24 standards. In aggregate, these features reduce the annual level of energy operations by 143,909 kWh of electricity and 439 therms of natural gas. Undertaken for an estimated incremental cost of $167,835, simple payback is expected in approximately ten years.
Water-conserving technologies were given priority in the budget, recognizing both the building’s extremely high operating demands and the design’s potential contribution to related industries. This project is a poster child for water conservation with its rainwater harvest system. Stormwater capture reduced water consumption by more than 80%. But unfortunately, like most projects in this region, there is little financial incentive to conserve water. Unlike most, this project acknowledges water as a finite and ultimately costly resource.
How is occupant behavior impacting the project’s sustainability?
This project represents a strong institutional commitment to sustainability and the technical expertise and personal passion of UC Davis’ faculty in the building’s conception. That same commitment is resident in monitoring day-to-day operations and in carrying forward the instructional program. This is an active learning model. Real-time data for all building systems is displayed and students are directly involved in the operation and monitoring of these systems. This exposure will afford students to enter the commercial workplace trained in the latest techniques and grounded in sustainable practices.
Beyond the project, what impacts have the LEED and green strategies had?
This building has increased UC Davis’ ratings. We were selected as one of the ten greenest universities by Sierra Magazine and we’ve received 12 different design awards. There are requests for a lot of tours by people like the heads of Hyatt Hotels, and numerous industry-related managers, looking to see what they can replicate.
One of the many design challenges was this long-term barrel room. The team had to balance the need to provide views into this showcase room while still maintaining a precisely-controlled environment, yet energy-efficient environment. (Photo by Robert Canfield)
Also, through this project in particular, the beer, wine and food industry started to see the marketing aspect of green and LEED. It’s not just a university idea that doesn’t make sense because they see that it’s good business sense for them – dollars can be saved and people want to be part of it, which brings in business.
The project has been cited as a model for learning laboratories and sustainable campus development, has earned many industry awards, and has been toured by groups from other design teams, academic institutions, and industry associations, including the USGBC local chapter. There has been particular interest in the rainwater harvest system. Just as we did a precedent survey, others are coming to this project as a part of their precedent survey. It is being recognized as the first very large-scale commercial rainwater harvesting project in California’s central valley, where such a strategy is a lot more challenging given the semi-arid climate. We’ve also received interest as the project team – the builder, architect, landscape architect, civil engineer, and MEP – to work together an apply similar strategies on other campuses.
The exterior courtyard with decomposed granite and shade trees was planned to accommodate 26 tables of eight for outdoor events. (Photo by Robert Canfield)
As global industries, beer, wine, and food production rely heavily on natural resources and energy-intensive processing to bring consumer goods to market. Internal policy, consumer expectations, regulatory conditions and resource economics all prompt efforts to enhance efficiency and reduce waste. This project has become a proving ground for sustainable production and a venue to strengthen relationships with industry partners.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
One of the biggest challenges was figuring out utilities and electrical needs. There was so much equipment needed for the food pilot plan, and unknown equipment to be built on the winery side. Spending more time up front before we entered into this contract would have been good – assessing what equipment we had, didn’t have, and what was needed – so that we could put this into the contract.
View of the building from the entrance to campus across the newly-planted, 15-acre vineyard. (Photo by UC Davis)
It also would have been helpful to really talk through the water systems more. We ended up putting in a carbon filtration system to pull out the chlorine that is put in by the campus because there is a no-chlorine policy on the wine side. There were a lot of options: deionized water, chilled, non-chlorine, steam and culinary steam. In the end, we really satisfied the occupants’ needs, but there’s a part of me that feels like we built in a little more flexibility than I’m comfortable with. You want to build in flexibility, but also be efficient. We could be spending more energy than needed. I wish we could have been more efficient, and this could have been accomplished by spending more time considering how.
My advice to other teams is that to do sustainability well, look at the things you want to do and get the team involved early. You have to have people on the team who are advocates – on the contractor’s side, design team side, management side, and client side. You can only be truly successful if you get all of these people involved and on board with the project vision.
We were struggling with the regulatory aspects of the rainwater capture system. There is very little guidance in the existing plumbing code regarding the use of non-potable water and rainwater inside of a building. We had questions about how that is classified and treated and if there is a regulatory difference between rainwater and stormwater. There were a lot of ambiguities because this was not part of a typical building process. We were able to work through these issues using the university’s charter as a research institution and mandate to develop test and pilot facilities to resolve these concerns and try them out in the real world. There were valid concerns about potential bacterial/biological contamination of water being gathered outside and used inside. UV light is typically used and this is what we started with. But because of repeated concerns revolving around a lack of clear guidance, we moved toward a more stringent treatment, which was ozone injection. Ozone has a bleaching effect on the tanks themselves and air space in tanks, and is therefore a much more robust way to control any potential contamination. But because there was no clear guidance, there was no check-off-the-box or a pass/fail criteria. We reached a point where we were confident because we went above and beyond what others had done and other jurisdictional criteria, such as EPA’s standards for use of non-potable water and State of Texas guidelines for use of non-potable water.
Also, the grounds maintenance staff are challenged by the fact that some of the native, adaptive plants require annual maintenance instead of weekly of biweekly maintenance. This is generally a good thing, except that as a result, all of the grasses require thinning at the same time. So from an operational standpoint, we’re still learning, but moving in a positive direction.
It's important to understand the value of having LEED administrators on a job. You can get so caught up in the day-to-day that it's helpful having someone charged with a specific task. KEMA carried the day when they really focused on the subcontractors, which are sometimes less familiar with LEED than other stakeholders. The construction process and providing focus here is always important.
On this project, captured storm water, retained in bioswales and stored in above-ground tanks, meets all irrigation and domestic non-potable water demands. Campus Environmental Health & Safety personnel were initially skeptical of water quality obtained by this method, but ultimately supportive of the adopted ozone filtration system.
Exterior plaster provided both essential economy and a contextual relationship. Unlike traditional applications, though, the plaster was applied to rigid insulation outboard of the structural frame. Relying on numerous special details, this system was developed in collaboration with the builder – a great opportunity of the design-build process.
Critical programmatic relationships present particular challenges for daylight and views in most research buildings. Despite extensive glazing through view lights and clerestories, conceptual modeling indicated the need to bring more daylight to the interior. Tubular, reflecting skylights proved to be a very economical solution.
One of the biggest challenges was the program of the project in that there were three very distinct user groups: winery, brewery, and food processing all in the same building. Each group had different needs and desires. We installed a carbon filtration system on the domestic water to remove chlorine because it’s bad for the winemaking process. But this stirred concerns on the food side because they wanted the chlorine in there to kill bacteria. In the end, we separated the drainage systems so that if the food group wanted to wash down using a bleach product, it would not affect the winery.
Another challenge was the equipment and understanding it, including how it would eventually be hooked up. We were trying to design a very flexible space, but in the end, it’s not that flexible based on how the equipment had to be connected. The actual requirements didn’t align with the program as much as desired. Asking program-related questions earlier in process would have been helpful here. A lot of these questions didn’t surface until we were well into construction, and it would have been better to solve these in the design environment.
What key moments adjusted the project’s direction or outcomes?
One key moment was selecting the rainwater harvest system. We looked at alternatives, including injecting stormwater and tapping back into the university’s utility water supply (well water). The challenges in doing that here are that there is an exceedingly high boron level sub-surface, so the water quality is not that great. We also wanted to develop a highly efficient system and because of mineral deposits and calcification, there are issues with orifices getting clogged. Even if we used a non-potable source, it was not a good alternative for this project. Even as opposed to 50 miles to the east, using rainwater here was a much better decision than injection or infiltration.
A key moment was the decision to treat or filter the water for the rainwater capture system. This added quite a bit of complications to the design, especially because we were already well down the design path when this issue arose. To resolve it, we engaged the mechanical engineer to investigate various systems. Then, we bid out that work to different vendors that specialized in ozone treatment, putting this under the mechanical design builder’s contract. We had to stop and pull back on installation of that side of the system, but fortunately, this didn’t affect the timeline because the tanks stand outside and weren’t too integrally tied into any other building system.
When the project team decided to attempt LEED Platinum rather than LEED Gold, a “team challenge” effect took hold that was wonderful to witness. KEMA was brought on as a consultant to ensure that the project would meet its Platinum goal and we at KEMA were excited to join a strong team with a solid goal, clear communication, camaraderie and spirit. Working with this group of motivated individuals was a pleasure and the cohesiveness of the design-build team helped unleash unbounded creativity. KEMA witnessed commitment to the goal and to strong design, responsiveness to requests, and a sense of “fun” that was before and since unmatched on a building project. We were honored to be part of creating this amazing facility.
How has this project influenced your approach to other projects?
I can see the interest now from our upper management into the Vice Chancellor’s office. It was a little surprising, yet wonderful, to them to see the impact this project has had on the campus. When I went in with the next building project, the Vice-Chancellor asked if we could do LEED Platinum and asked how we could get that same recognition. In a way, that was not just a label on the building, but the building program and the sustainable aspects made it really exciting for the campus. It opened the eyes of upper management to ask questions and push buildings further into sustainable solutions. Also, upper management now understands that sustainable buildings are more than just recycled materials. They now understand how holistic LEED is.
In our practice, we have been able to apply the lessons we learned on a large scale and the work that went into developing a methodology on this project to all sorts of projects – large and small. For example, we’ve integrated rainwater harvesting into an interpretive master plan for the City of Fresno Utilities Department and other projects.
This project demonstrates that ambitious sustainability goals can be achieved without compromise to health and safety in a food-grade production facility. By intent, specific features of the building’s construction and ongoing operations can be tested, modified, and ultimately implemented as industry best practices. Built elements include extensive stormwater harvesting, plumbing for clean-in-place water re-use and CO2 capture, and an economical, high-performance envelope. Systems monitoring and modification offer continuing contribution to the wine, beer and food industries, directly addressing the impact their production has on the environment.
On a personal level, this project influenced my level of understanding the process. I now approach jobs differently as a project manager in terms of my knowledge, better knowing what works and what doesn’t work. I think I bring more to the table and can talk more intelligently about LEED than I previously could. Specifically, I have more knowledge of materials – what satisfies LEED requirements and what doesn’t. For example, we were able to get renewable materials with a soybean product that we previously didn’t know was renewable and we were able to reuse recycled rock material.
From a business standpoint, BNBuilders is using our strategies implemented for recycling and LEED documentation, including contract language and templates for subcontractors, on other projects. During a lessons learned review session following project completion, it was acknowledged how the materials summary sheet was particularly helpful in keeping documentation organized. To enhance this technique, we added a "cheat sheet" including answers to frequently asked questions and tips on common mistakes. This makes it clear to all vendors what documentation they are required to provide and how to interpret the LEED lingo. This technique makes the documentation process more efficient and organized, identifies progress and correct deficiencies throughout the project, and will be implemented on all of our future projects. BNBuilders has also used this project to train other project teams on LEED documentation.
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