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Platinum lab emphasizes practical food and beverage science

Wed, 06/01/2011 - 9:12am
Julie S. Higginbotham

Lab of the Year: High Honors

UC Davis Main

The Univ. of California-Davis, Teaching and Research Winery and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory (WBF) melds updated food and beverage production with sustainable design and an agrarian aesthetic. Photo: Robert Canfield

The Project:
Univ. of California-Davis, Teaching and Research Winery and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory (WBF). 32,334 ft2 research and teaching facility integrating wine making, brewing and food processing applications and public outreach. $17.2 million.

This project received a High Honors award in the 2011 Lab of the Year competition for its overall excellent quality in creating an environment that meets client objectives, reflects the agricultural aesthetics of its mission, and serves as an example in sustainable design, including net-zero water use and LEED Platinum certification.

The Team:
Flad Architects, San Francisco (architect and lab planner, interiors); Frank M. Booth Design Build Co., Granite Bay, Calif. (mechanical/plumbing design/build engineer); Red Top Electric Co., Livermore, Calif. (electrical design/build engineer); Gayner Engineers, San Francisco (MEP engineer/basis of design); KPW Structural Engineers Inc., Oakland (structural engineer); Creegen+D’Angelo, Fairfield, Calif. (civil engineer); KEMA Sustainable Buildings and Operations, Oakland, Calif. (LEED consultant); The HLA Group, Sacramento, Calif. (landscape architect); BN Builders, Redwood City, Calif. (general contractor).

The Users:
The WBF facility is the final phase in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC-Davis. The new building houses advanced research and teaching programs and integrates benchtop science with applied process technologies, translating academic investigation to industrial application. As with academic medical research facilities adopting a "bench to bedside" focus, the WBF’s scope was seen as "topsoil to table," encompassing cultivation, fermentation, production and quality control processes and technologies.

UC Davis Vineyards

A research vineyard is a key component of the project. (The multistory building at the left is part of a prior phase of the Robert Mondavi Institute, which includes research and administrative facilities as well as the processoriented WBF.) Tanks at the right are an integral part of the water collection/distribution system. Photo: Robert Canfield

Users include the department of viticulture and enology, and the department of food science and technology; the 44 faculty tend to have industrial chemistry backgrounds. About 300 students, mostly undergraduate but some graduate, will use the facilities annually. Outreach is a key feature; the research serves the state’s winemakers, brewers and farmers, and students and faculty can interact with industry representatives and even consumers.

The Schedule:
The project launched with a design competition in July 2008 and was completed in September 2010. A design-build delivery method was deemed essential for the desired LEED Platinum level within a lean construction budget. Close collaboration between the architect and builder led to reduced material quantities and continual constructability evaluation, freeing up funds for sustainable features.

The Goals:
The WBF is the final piece of the Mondavi Institute complex, which also includes two academic buildings (North and South buildings) with labs, classrooms, offices and meeting rooms. An administrative building for the Institute staff (the Sensory Facility) also has a “sensory theatre” with extensive multimedia capabilities, and kitchens and tasting labs. These three buildings, comprising ~130,000 ft2, are clustered around a landscaped courtyard and were completed in 2008 as phase one of a planned two-phase project.

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The winery, brewing and general food processing zones each have a central, open lab as their primary facility, flanked by support. Plan: Flad Architects

Phase two, the WBF, extends the scope of the RMI with pilot-style facilities for beer brewing and winemaking. Food processing science is also a focus, with an accent on metabolism, food safety, packaging and related water-management of effluent streams. More utilitarian in scope than the existing buildings, the WBF was nevertheless intended to reflect an attractive, culturally appropriate aesthetic that would be welcoming to users and visitors.

Though the facility links related disciplines, the client requested that unique identities and spaces be created for viticulture and enology and food science and technology. The building is intended as a showcase for advanced process technologies, and connects research and production with a demonstration vineyard. Designers were asked to make provisions for program growth and physical expansion.

An exemplary degree of sustainability was also a client priority. The client envisioned a facility that would model "best practices" for the beer, wine and food industries, not only in terms of production but also in terms of sustainability. Specific goals included reducing and monitoring water and energy use; reducing and reclaiming waste output; engineering appropriate responses to the local climate; mitigating freeway and railroad noise; and minimizing the distance to existing utility connections.

UC Davis Fermenter

The research fermentation equipment in the main winemaking lab is enclosed but easily visible from the adjacent flexible classroom. Photo: Robert Canfield

Specific functional goals prioritized adaptability since protocols and processes are expected to evolve. Environmental control must be precise for some operations, and cross-contamination is a concern given the multiple applications that share the building. Fermentation labs were to be visible without users needing to enter. Two beer-brewing sessions daily were planned and needed to be accommodated. The food science and technology group needed labs with food-grade standards as stipulated by the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture. Both departments had existing equipment that needed to be integrated with newly purchased items.

The Solutions:
Reflecting the hands-on skills of the user group, faculty were invited to be heavily involved in the design, from casework selection to close monitoring of equipment installation. Each program component was subjected to a high level of scrutiny since the WBF was intended as a model, cutting-edge facility that would be influential not only in California but potentially nationwide.

The wine, beer and food labs were ultimately configured as separate components within a roughly L-shaped building, with a primary east-west corridor. The north wing, relatively square, holds the teaching and research winery, with support zones and a wine cellar flanking an open, central winery fermentation lab. Support rooms include areas for long-term barrels, a fruit cellar, a diagnostics lab, a classroom and a shaded outdoor "crush pad" for grapes. An attractively finished "special collections" wine storage room doubles as a setting for intimate meetings with donors and prospective benefactors.

The south wing is divided between the food lab and the beer lab, and also houses a break room, restrooms, and building support. The beer lab consists of a large open brewery, plus a mill, cooler, dry storage and a few associated functions. The food lab has a large, open food processing lab and a smaller milk processing lab, in addition to dry storage, a walk-in freezer and walk-in cooler, and an equipment room.

UC Davis Brewery

The research brewery laboratory has six movable 62-gal fermenters with glycol cooling connections that allow for relocation when not in use. Photo: Robert Canfield

A classroom and a diagnostics lab in the south wing can be shared, since they are convenient to both the brewing and food labs. Most offices and conference rooms are situated in the nearby Phase 1 Mondavi complex buildings, but the WBF does include a few offices for the people who maintain the building, including monitoring safety conditions in process facilities.

Safety and process flows were a critical part of the planning. Each of the three major areas were optimized for the efficient movement of products and materials.

The Highlights:
The WBF serves as an example of sustainable design for several resource-intensive processes. "The goal is for the facility to be not just carbon-neutral but carbon-zero, in terms of its carbon emissions," says Roger Boulton, the UC-Davis Stephen Sinclair endowed professor of viticulture and enology. Keeping the lab green involved significant belowground work as well as smart aboveground design.

A "geopier" system provides a stable foundation, needed due to poor site soil conditions. Crushed rock, densely compacted into drilled cavities, is an alternative to concrete. The building envelope includes rigid insulation that achieves an R-26 value on exterior walls and roof, mitigating summer heat gain and winter heat loss and reducing mechanical loads. Daylighting strategies include large glazed zones at the north and east as well as cellular polycarbonate panels providing light at clerestories, shaded by deep roof overhangs. Solar tubes introduce daylight to interior program spaces.

Rainwater is captured from gutters and bioswales and pumped to four 44,000-gal storage tanks, where it provides gray water for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation. The system reduces the building’s non-process water demand to net zero; an estimated 176,000 gal. of rainwater will be captured annually. A clean-in-place (CIP) system collects all cleaning water for the fermenters, purifies it, removes organic matter and recycles it; the goal is that water will be reused eight times through the system.

Indoor air quality was a particular concern given the building’s functions. All products and finishes were selected for low- or no-VOC emissions. Building CO2 levels are monitored; redundant CO2 exhaust is provided by a night purge ventilation system that also cools the facility. CO2 produced during fermentation is sequestered through a calcium hydroxide scrubber to maintain set concentration levels; an eventual goal is to convert carbon into a solid element to be used as fertilizer.

UC Davis Food Science

Overhead utility connections leave the food science lab completely open for varied equipment and processes, suiting the department’s work with multiple crop types. Photo: Robert Canfield

Chilled water and steam are provided by the campus central plant. A VAV air handler with hot water reheat conditions occupied spaces; passive heat pipe technology is used for heat recovery. A closed-loop, water-cooled system is used for process air conditioning equipment. PV panels provide 120,00 kWh/yr, contributing more than 17% of the building’s electrical demands. Power and water use are extensively metered to give the client accurate data about the building’s performance.

The Results:
Lab of the Year judges were impressed by the building's intelligent approach to sustainability goals, as well as its pleasant aesthetic character. "It is an attractive architectural solution expressing the agrarian program and paying homage to the architecture of wineries," says Barry Shiel, associate principal, Payette, Boston. "The sustainability approaches to water conservation combined with the skilled use of the mild climate for natural ventilation, passive cooling and day/night cycle conditioning is exemplary."

Victoria David, science and technology practice leader, Iron Horse Architects, Denver, says, "The design team was selected for its creativity and experience in the design of lab facilities. But the team was somewhat unique in the seamless collaboration with contractors and their subs in order to find the optimal solution. The mechanical systems demonstrated the creative power and acument of an integrated team, and they didn’t shy away from doing the research and homework to develop and right-size systems that would truly support the educational mission as well as the operations of the facility."

The Contact:
Andrew Cunningham, RIBA, LEED AP, principal, Flad Architects, acunningham@flad.com.

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