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Cheers to Green

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

When architect Michael Pellis and his family relocated from the San Francisco Bay area to Richmond, Virginia, eight years ago, California friends teased that his days of designing hip wineries were over. That is until Pellis connected with two forward-thinking winery owners who’d dreamed of turning their existing facilities into a cutting-edge vineyard for years. 

“They had a folder full of images they collected over the 10 years that they planned for this project, data on square footage needs, and electric consumption historical documentation,” Pellis says. “We went to several tasting rooms and they discussed what they liked about each one and why they wanted certain features in their facility.” 

The resulting design, Cooper Vineyards, is carved into a hillside, its covered deck opening to a scenic vista of vines and grounds. Overhead, a butterfly roof allows the owners to take in panoramas of the vineyards through a ribbon of clerestory windows above the roof deck. Below, naturally cool temperatures in the basement level of the three-story structure were ideal for wine storage. 

Signature characteristics like the butterfly roof weren’t just added for visual appeal: The feature doubles as a rainwater collection system. It’s one of the many sustainable details that scored the project the U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating system’s highest honors, Platinum certification. The vineyards boast locally sourced labor and materials, geothermal heating and cooling, and structurally insulated panel systems for exterior walls and roofs, among other environmentally minded choices. The project was awarded two USDA grants, one for energy efficiency and one for renewable energy. Testing so far shows the project is operating 67 percent more efficiently than the project team anticipated. 

“Many of the subcontractors had never worked on a project like this before and there was a learning curve for everyone involved,” Pellis says. “The rainwater harvesting system and several other systems were the first of their kind in this area of the state. Several [subcontractors] rose to the challenge and we have them to thank for the success of this building.” 

 

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