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BMCDB Editorial: UC Davis’s Own LEED Platinum Sustainable Winery

By Gordon Walker

With much thanks to Dr. Roger Boulton of UCD V&E

UC Davis is an innovative and amazing University that excels in many areas. From our roots as a Land Grant Agricultural school to our myriad of nationally ranked departments, graduate groups, and professional schools; no facility stands out as much, or is as representative of the true Davis spirit than the Pilot Winery, Brewery and Food Processing facility at the Robert Mondavi Institute on the south side of campus. The building is the culmination and crowning jewel of the RMI, which was made possible by an incredibly generous donation from the late great Robert G. Mondavi. Since starting at Davis I have had the chance to watch the building go from a construction site, to a fully operational research facility that is not only revolutionizing the science of food, wine, and beer but also pushing the boundaries of sustainable architecture and agriculture. This building has been LEED Platinum certified, meaning that it meets and exceeds the requirements of the US Green Building Council to be a “green building”. What is so amazing is that this is not just a “green” building but also a functional research facility capable of super sustainable food and beverage production. This building can serve as a model not only for wineries of the future, but also as a starting point for any structure or complex.

The winery features 152 mobile modular fermenters with the capability to do real time wireless monitoring of sugar levels, allowing students to actually track and manage their fermentations through their smart phones. These 152 fermenters are also linked to a ventilation system that works to sequester and trap carbon dioxide as calcium carbonate, this system greatly reduces cooling costs in the winery and provides a value added product.   The brewery features a state of the art Clean In Place (CIP) system that allows the entire brewing process to be done “in line” without any chance for contamination. The brewery also features a state of the art computerized brewery management system which allows students to mimmic commercial conditions but in small scale productions. The food processing facility is a large modular set of machines with capabilities to process a wide variety of crops such as tomatoes, peaches, almonds and other California staples. There is even a soon to be opened dairy processing facility that will serve to find practical solutions to problems faced by industry. While I could go on and on about all of the cool features of the Pilot facility, and the soon to be built Jess Jackson Sustainability Building, I will let Dr. Roger Boulton espouse some of the concepts and features that make this project so special.

Watch Dr. Boulton’s incredible power point presentation of the capabilities of the Winery and Jess Jackson Sustainability Building

Dr. Boulton’s Power Point Presentation

Long quote on the importance of the UC Winery Dr. Boulton

First LEED Platinum Winery, one of the highest (the highest?) point 
scores with 60 out of 69. One of 16 buildings at this level in 2011. It 
is energy and water positive as a building, probably the only LEED 
Platinum building to be so. It has gone beyond the LEED points for 
on-site water and energy, so a friend called it "Platinum plus"

The 152 research fermentors make the largest research facility in the 
world and with its wireless density and temperature sensors, the largest 
wireless network in the fermentation world. These fermentors has several 
innovative design features, from carbon capture, water-only heating and 
cooling for temperature control, mobile and suitable for both red and 
white wine fermentations.

The Jess Jackson Sustainable Winery Building is in the detailed design 
stage, and will be completed in Feb 2013. It is a passive utility 
building that will house the membrane systems for the filtration of all 
rainwater and cleaning solutions. It will house the carbon dioxide 
sequestration columns that will make calcium carbonate, the passive 
solar hot water, and the solar powered ice maker for the chilled water. 
It will make hydrogen electrolyticaly from solar power and store it for 
a hydrogen fuel cell for night time energy. These systems will be 
leadership commercial systems that will make the Winery self-sustainable 
in water and energy from on-site sources. This building will have 
insulations values between 60 to 80, compared to 20 in most houses. It 
will be among the most thermally-insulated (and therefore 
energy-efficient) buildings in the world, cooled only by night-time air. 
While the summer air temperatures might reach 100 to 105 in Davis, the 
building will not go above 82 F inside.

The rainwater capture from the three buildings of the Robert Mondavi 
Institute will be held in 6 x 40K gal tanks, like the 4 that are at the 
south side of the Winery complex. It will be filtered into RO water over 
a 6 month period. This will require about 1 or 2 KW for 180 days but is 
a preferred alternative to a filtration that is completed in a week, at 
26 times the KW requirement and sits idle for 51 weeks. The entire 
winery has been planned so that it can operate on storage rather than 
on-demand systems for all water and energy.

The cleaning solutions will be simple inorganic buffers, dilute KOH and 
KHSO4, at pH around 11 and 2.5 respectively. No pathogens grow in either 
solution and hydrogen peroxide is a sterilant at both pHs. These 
solutions can be re-filtered through a nanofilter for 90% recovery of 
both water and salts. After 10 cycles this will require only 1/5th the 
usual water and chemistry. The solutions will be pH 7 when mixed and can 
be used in irrigation without any clay destruction, a problem with 
sodium salts. There will be no phosphate for algal blooms in streams, no 
nitrate for soil nitrification, no organic to contribute to BOD 
(biological oxygen demand) or COD (chemical oxygen demand) requiring 
waste water treatment. The 10% retentate stream which has most of the 
juice or wine organics will go to the biodigestor on campus to become 

All of these facilities have been privately-funded at a time of 
recession and financial problems at the State level and budget cuts at 
UC. It is a stunning example of what is possible without any government 
support and speaks to the wide array of personal support that we are 
fortunate to have.

Dr. Roger Boulton gives a tour and explanation of the UC Davis Winery

Here are some other press articles about the innovations of the UC Davis LEED Platinum Pilot Winery, Brewery and Food Processing Facility

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