Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles has become the first winery in San Luis Obispo County to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for its “green” construction.
Completed in spring 2010, construction for Niner Wine’s three buildings off Highway 46 West — two for wine production plus a hospitality center — cost about $30 million, winemaker Amanda Cramer said.
The winery, owned by Richard and Pam Niner, received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — commonly called LEED — Silver Certification earlier this month.
“The list is very small of LEED-certified wineries,” Cramer said. “It’s a lot of paperwork.”
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So far, only four other wineries in California have earned certification, according to the Washington, D.C.-based council. About a dozen more are registered and in the process, including Paso’s Shale Oak Winery.
Certification is based on a four-tiered, 100-point system. Points are awarded for the use of materials and construction practices that save energy, water and other resources. Preferred practices also promote environmental quality.
Those certified must earn at least 40 points. Those with at least 50 are deemed Silver, while 60 or 80 points earn a Gold or Platinum designation, respectively.
Other local buildings have been certified, including RRM Design Group’s offices, Poly Canyon Village Housing and Congregation Beth David’s synagogue — all in San Luis Obispo.
Earning the distinction wasn’t easy, Cramer said. Niner Wine hired a full-time consultant, engineer Tom Bower, to shepherd the certification process as project manager.
Designed by architect Tim Woodle of Pults and Associates, the winery is cut into a hillside to keep it cooler naturally.
It also features 14-inch-thick insulated concrete walls and an automatic system that lets in night air to cool the cellar.
For irrigation, wastewater is treated and rainfall is collected. Fruit is delivered to tanks through a gravity system to avoid pumping.
Such features reduce energy and water costs. But that wasn’t the only motivation, Cramer said, since the winery doesn’t expect to recover the upfront costs of building them during the owner’s lifetime.
Niner Wine is still planning on placing solar panels and investigating certification options for its vineyard practices.
“It’s a legacy kind of thing,” Cramer said. “This is a very energy-efficient building, but winemaking is a very energy-intensive business. We still have a pretty decent-size bill even though we did all this.”
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