A Sustainable Thirst for Science
The first LEED Platinum process science facility strives to satisfy both consumer taste buds and the environment.
The Teaching and Research Winery and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory fits the surrounding agrarian area. All Photos: Robert Canfield
Food and beverages must satisfy both the consumer's palate and safety standards. A successful "topsoil to table" approach requires a blend of agriculture, production, and scientific inquiry.
A research laboratory and pilot facility at the University of California, Davis not only educates a new generation of scientists in viticulture, brewing, and food science, it serves as a model for wine, beer, and food processing industries to emulate in addressing the impact production methods have on the environment.
The Teaching and Research Winery and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory (WBF) houses research and teaching programs that support industry applications and public outreach. In addition to processing operations, the facility is home to testing laboratories and classrooms.
Part of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI), the WBF is unique by laboratory standards. The building is a learning environment where students study sustainable production processes and gain valuable hands-on experience. It combines bench-top science with applied process technologies, bridging both academic investigation and industrial applications. Researchers test theories and validate new processes for cultivation and production in industrial conditions.
What sets the facility apart is its sustainability features. The WBF is the first research building in California to achieve net-zero water use and the first process science building in the world to achieve LEED Platinum certification. For these achievements, the facility and Flad Architects (San Francisco)—which served as architect, laboratory planner, and interior designer—have been recognized with High Honors in R&D Magazine’s 2011 Laboratory of the Year (LOY) competition.
Beyond its role as a working classroom, the facility itself provides an important lesson for other processing labs: Sustainable laboratories and manufacturing can be accomplished through careful design and planning. The facility serves as a living model, demonstrating the effectiveness of energy-efficient technologies and construction practices, says Victoria David, science and technology practice leader, Iron Horse Architects, Denver.
Designed for bigger plans
The 32,344 square foot, single-story facility is aligned on an east-west axis on an academic quadrangle. The south wing houses a brewery, food processing plant, and milk processing laboratory. The teaching and research winery is located in the north wing. Glass walls provide a visual connection—but physical separation—between the processing and viewing areas. Building occupants can view the outdoors from almost every room.
"Three rather messy, industrial food-processing spaces were integrated into a tasteful low-rise structure compatible with the Davis campus and climate," says Richard R. Rietz, an independent lab design consultant and 2011 LOY judge. "That these spaces were made visitor-friendly and interesting is a real plus."
The designers turned to private sector processing experts to develop a pilot processing plan that could be transferred to large-scale production. Variable controls and closed systems were needed to avoid cross contamination from different processing areas.
The wine laboratory support space provides views into research winery.
In the wine research area, 152 networked fermentation tanks, each holding 55 gallons, monitor sugar levels, control temperature, and report data wirelessly to the winery's computers. With precise control, identical barrels can be created and differences between the barrels can be managed.
The food science and technology facility examines the production of beer, milk, olive oil, and produce. Commercial brewers use a small-scale facility to test new recipes or processes. Students in the food processing pilot plant research alternative food processing methods and their nutritional effects, nutritional quality, and the shelf-life of fresh-cut produce.
Sustainable features come with a price tag. Originally, the university planned to pursue a lower level of LEED certification. Industry donors contributed the funds needed to meet the criteria for Platinum-level performance.
The wall system incorporates rigid insulation and has an R-26 value. Low slope PVC roofing and steep slope metal roofing minimize heat island effect.
Frequently occupied spaces are located to the north and east. Areas with greater lighting needs are exposed to daylight. Cellular polycarbonate panels with a thermal value of approximated R-4 are shaded by deep overhangs and provide ambient light at clerestories. A cupola in the fermentation hall and solar tubes in interior program spaces bring in natural daylight and reduce dependence on artificial light.
A central utility plant provides the chilled water and steam for the building. A closed-loop, water-cooled system is used for process air conditioning equipment. A nighttime ventilation fan system pre-cools process areas and monitors interior air quality and carbon dioxide. Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels provide 17.5% of the building’s electrical demands.
Approximately 176,000 gallons of rainwater is captured annually and used for irrigation and gray water flushing, reducing the building’s non-process water use to net zero. The ability to capture process wash down water in the fermentation hall is available. Process equipment is cleaned in place; 80% of the waste water can be recycled.
To satisfy the unique research conducted at the WBF, an equally distinct facility was on order. The university's vision and the resulting design demonstrate that the research programs have both the consumer’s palate and environment in mind.
Published in R & D magazine: Vol. 53, No. 3, 2011, June