Sustainable practices don’t end in the vineyard. Winery facilities can also be sustainable when they are built to be ecologically sound, economically viable, operationally efficient, and aesthetically pleasing.

Joe Chauncey of the Seattle architectural firm Boxwood specializes in designing buildings that are sustainable. He has been involved with several Washington and Oregon winery designs in addition to the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Washington.

In recent years, sustainable practices of farmers have received much attention, but buildings, which can also be sustainable, haven’t had the public focus.

And yet, buildings in the United States use 12 percent of the available potable water, are responsible for 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, and use 65 percent of the electricity available, according to Chauncey. The buildings also generate 136 million tons of construction debris, and on a global basis, use 40 percent of all raw materials that are produced.

Chauncey, who shared his views at a sustainable viticulture session held during a recent wine convention, believes that others can join agriculture’s emphasis on sustainability.

Sustainable buildings take many forms. They can be made from renewable resources or sustainable forests, use natural lighting and other building designs to reduce energy needs, and incorporate recycled materials from other buildings. Site selection is also a component of sustainability.

Building a winery below the ground costs more initially, but the annual energy savings can add up quickly, he noted. Below-ground wineries don’t require heating and cooling, just ventilation. Another below-ground benefit is less evaporation in the barrel room.

Green wineries

Chauncey’s firm was involved with two Washington State winery projects in Walla Walla—Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery. At Amavi, located near Walla Walla’s downtown, lumber was salvaged from an old log cabin destined for demolition and reused in the tasting room. A sustainable focus on energy costs was used at Pepper Bridge by building the winery into the ground.

Heating costs between the two facilities vary greatly because of the above and below ground functions, he reported. Amavi’s heating costs are about 85 cents per square foot compared to Pepper Bridge’s heating costs of 50 cents per square foot.

Another example of designing a building around energy consumption is the Walter Clore Center, to be built this spring. Nearly all of the center’s 17,000 square feet will be underground, greatly reducing the annual maintenance and energy costs. He estimated that the underground design will save about $3,500 per year in utility bills.

Maximizing the use of natural lighting is another way to reduce energy costs. Using a translucent covering over a winery’s crush pad can dramatically reduce lighting requirements in a winery. Also, skylights and other strategically placed windows can reduce lighting needs.

Indirect lighting can be put to work into various winery rooms. Chauncey’s firm works closely with a lighting design laboratory in Seattle that helps determine optimum building window placement for natural lighting.

A building with natural light uses from 0.33 to 0.5 watts per square foot compared to one with artificial light that typically uses about 1.5 watts per square foot, he said.

In areas like eastern Washington, where afternoon sun can heat up buildings, he noted that sunscreen walls serve to keep heat from entering the walls. A sunscreen is a slatted wall positioned on the outside of the building’s exterior wall. In western Washington, the slatted wall serves as a rain screen instead of a sunscreen.

Grapevines can also be trained to grow on the winery’s exterior wall to absorb some of the heat and act as a sunscreen.

Another sustainable building practice is to remodel existing buildings. Chauncey helped redesign a horse stable into Hightower Cellars at Red Mountain, near Benton City. Many of the horse barn materials were reused, with skylights added to the roofline to increase natural lighting. Solar screens made from the slats of recycled wooden barrels will eventually be added to the winery’s walls.


Chauncey encourages potential winery owners to consider the energy that goes into producing building materials. Using wood from a sustainable forest requires 640 kilowatt-hours to produce a ton of wood and deliver it to the job site, he cited. Brick materials require 2,500 kilowatt-hours per ton, while steel requires 15,360 kilowatt-hours per ton to produce and deliver to the job site. Aluminum materials require 80,640 kilowatt-hours per ton.

“There are a lot of ways to make buildings more environmentally friendly and more sustainable,” Chauncey said. “If you can save on electricity, save money on materials, that all translates into money back to the business or represents profit.”