Laboratory Design Newsletter 2011 Selected Abstract

A Conversation over Drinks

Stevens Williams, AIA, LEED AP®, Flad Architects

Our appreciation for the quality of what we eat and drink is increasingly shaped by an understanding of how that food and drink are produced. The Teaching and Research Winery and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory (WBF) at the University of California, Davis is a pilot facility that integrates wine making, brewing, and food processing with discovery and learning programs. Awarded high honors in R&D Magazine's 2011 Lab of the Year competition, WBF demonstrates that ambitious energy and environmental goals can be successfully integrated in a high-performance science environment.

WBF is an extended research environment, integrating bench-top science with applied process technologies. Unique for its type and broadly transformative in its potential, WBF allows researchers to directly test theories and validate new processes for cultivation and production in industrial conditions. The building is an extended learning environment as well, educating students in sustainable production processes and operating procedures. It is a living model, where the effectiveness of energy-efficient technologies is directly monitored and demonstrated.

Exterior image

Entirely funded by donor bequests, the building's design was undertaken with the expectation that building features and operating systems could be scaled up for application in parent industries. Specific innovations that engaged the vision of industry donors and addressed general issues for sustainable performance include real-time monitoring and adjustment of building systems, piping research fermentors for carbon dioxide capture, and collaborative study to develop a high-performance envelope.

The effort to conserve water was central to this effort. Research protocols and production techniques for the food and beverage programs are unusually high, even with respect to laboratory buildings. Wine-making is perhaps the most demanding of such techniques. Imagine two one-gallon jugs of water standing beside every bottle of wine and you have a fair depiction of the quantity of process water needed to produce a single pour.

Despite an impending crisis in water availability, the onsite capture, storage, and treatment of stormwater carry very high first-costs without apparent return on investment. In this case, the necessary site area and the building's agricultural character supported the most economical solution for large volume storage—above-ground metal storage tanks.

The watershed for this 2.5-acre site is a potential catchment for about 400,000 gallons per year. Capturing and storing 176,000 gallons satisfies the site's annual irrigation requirements and meets all of the building's non-potable water demand. WBF is the first building in the region to satisfy all irrigation and all non-potable water needs through stormwater harvesting and will be foremost of its type to reduce process water demands through a clean-in-place system.

Interior image

About 320,000 gallons of water is required annually for winemaking, brewing, and food science process loads. To reduce demand, a Clean-in-Place (CIP) system similar to that used in pharmaceutical manufacture will collect, treat, and reuse cleaning water. Coarse filtration/centrifugation and membrane filtration removes impurities to maintain high quality and reduces demand by about 80 percent.

WBF will be the first LEED® Platinum building on the University of California, Davis, campus and the third in this state educational system. It will house the world's first LEED Platinum winery, first LEED Platinum brewery, and first LEED Platinum food-processing pilot plant. It is one of approximately six laboratories and the first process science building to attain this level of performance.

The WBF has sometimes been described as an "intelligent barn." This description reflects in part the modesty of the architecture, but also indicates the distance from agricultural practice. As traditional buildings, all barns possess a native intelligence, supporting an inherent need to restore, reuse, and replenish. This is a building that remembers and one, we hope, that teaches.


Stevens Williams is the principal and design director for Flad Architects in San Francisco. Mr. Williams' design for the brewery, winery, and food sciences facility reflects both his deep personal interest in the agrarian landscape and demonstrated professional commitment to sustainability.

Mr. Williams is currently leading sustainable building designs for Merritt College, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Sandia National Laboratories, the California Maritime Academy, and San Francisco State's Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies.

Mr. Williams' past innovative designs for energy conservation include Applied Biosystems, one of the first science buildings to be certified by the LEED program, and the Ohlone College Newark Center, the first LEED Platinum campus in North America. Mr. Williams' recognition includes Best of California, Education Award, the U.S. General Services Administration Design Excellence Program, and the National Endowment for the Arts Presidential Award.