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Foundations of Sustainability: Climate Action in Winery Construction and Buildings

A LEED certified sustainable building at IWCA Silver Member Silver Oak Winery in Alexander Valley, California. The building is in the foreground; a vineyard is in the background.

Buildings and Construction: An Important Part of Winery Sustainability

The physical footprint of a winery’s buildings is usually small compared to the sum of a winery’s vineyards and land.

Usually, winery buildings also represent a small carbon footprint compared to other activities. For example, emissions from packaging and transportation are many times higher (on average) than emissions related to construction or building operations (e.g., electricity and heating/cooling).

Even so—construction and buildings are an important and exciting area for climate action in the wine sector.

For one, reaching Net Zero requires decarbonization of all parts of a winery. Sustainability has to take into account construction and the built environment—like the buildings that house a winery’s offices, cellars, processing facilities, tasting rooms, and other key functions.

Furthermore, buildings are under a company’s direct control. Direct emissions = direct responsibility = direct opportunity.

Globally, GHG emissions from construction and buildings reached a new record high in 2021. The wine sector can—and should—do things differently. Excitingly, cutting-edge eco-construction and sustainability efforts are already underway at a number of IWCA wineries!

At Famille Perrin (France), Building for the Next Century of Winemaking

Amongst hundred-year-old olive groves in the Rhône Valley of France lies Château de Beaucastel. IWCA Silver Member Famille Perrin has been growing wine here for five generations. While the winery is deeply rooted in history, it has embarked on an ambitious future-forward renovation of its Château de Beaucastel.

Highlights of sustainability at Famille Perrin (France):

  • This ecological project will allow Château de Beaucastel to be autonomous 80% of the time in water, electricity, heating, and cooling. With 262 square meters of solar panels, Famille Perrin expects to produce 73,360 KWh per year on average, or equal to the usage of 20 average households. Wind turbines on chimneys will capture the seasonal “mistral” winds to cool wine in storage—an all-natural ventilation and cooling solution.

  • Famille Perrin prioritized using recycled concrete and local excavated earth as building materials in the Château de Beaucastel renovation.

  • A 30-foot deep underground pool will capture and store rainwater deposited by specially designed rooftop catchments and will serve two purposes: water preservation and climatization.

Three images of construction underway at IWCA winery Famille Perrin's Château de Beaucastel in southern France.
Construction underway at Famille Perrin's Château de Beaucastel.

Groundbreaking Green Buildings at Silver Oak Winery (U.S.)

Sustainability has been the foundation of IWCA Member Silver Oak’s winemaking for years—and not just figuratively.

The wood and glass ceiling at IWCA Member Silver Oak's Alexander Valley winery in California, which is LEED Platinum-certified.
At Silver Oak's Alexander Valley, LEED Platinum-certified building..

In 2016, Silver Oak’s Oakville winery became the world’s first LEED Platinum-certified production winery in the “existing buildings, operations, and maintenance” category. In 2018, its Alexander Valley winery achieved the same milestone in the “new construction” category.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum is the highest level of certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It is a globally recognized, ambitious standard of sustainability in the construction and building industry. To achieve certification, Silver Oak invested in renewable energy, water conservation, and recycled and sustainable materials.

These investments are part of “environmental stewardship and social responsibility that extends from our vineyards and wineries to our tasting rooms,” as Silver Oak explains. “To us, operating with a thoughtful approach at every step of the winemaking process is not only the right thing to do; it results in better wines.”

Highlights of sustainability at Silver Oak (U.S.):

  • At Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley, 2,595 solar panels produce over one megawatt of electricity per year and generate more energy (105%) than is consumed. The Oakville winery features 1,464 solar panels, producing nearly half of its energy needs.

  • By installing Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) water treatment and filtering at the Alexander Valley winery, Silver Oak reduced its potable water needs by 37%. The Membrane Bioreactor treats used water (byproduct of the winemaking process) and reuses it to flush toilets, clean tanks, and cool winery equipment.

  • Both the winery and tasting room are clad in over 36,000 board feet of salvaged redwood wine barrel staves.

  • Over 3,000 materials were screened for toxic chemicals commonly found in building products. About half were approved for use.

IWCA Member Silver Oak's Silver Oak's Alexander Valley building in California. The image prominently shows the building's solar panels.
Silver Oak's Alexander Valley facility in California.


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