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Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden Becomes the First Winery to Achieve Living Building Challengeā„¢ Petal Certification

5.16.17 by the Green Hammer Team

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden today announced that its new tasting room has achieved Living Building Challenge™ (LBC) Petal Certification, the world’s most rigorous green building standard. The award-winning winery located in southern Oregon is the world’s first winery to meet the LBC Certification requirements, a goal it set out to achieve nearly three years ago. 

One of the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic® commercial farms and estate wineries in the United States, Cowhorn has long been a leader in sustainable agriculture practices. When setting out to build a 2,200-square-foot tasting room and case storage area, owners Bill and Barbara selected Green Hammer, a Portland, Oregon-based design-build firm, to help them create a tasting room that aligned with their personal and business values.

“Agriculture is extractive by definition,” says Barbara Steele. “But we do it in a way that leaves the space as good as, if not better, than the way we found it. We want our buildings and everything else about our business to follow that same philosophy.”

After a rigorous three-year process led by Green Hammer, Cowhorn achieved LBC Petal Certification in four areas — Materials, Site, Equity and Beauty. To achieve Living Building Certification, Cowhorn must attain the remaining three Petals — Water, Energy and Health & Happiness — which involves undergoing a one-year monitoring period and verification by the International Living Future Institute.

"The contrast of texture and color in the tasting room aims to celebrate the cycle of life, death and rebirth, inherent to all natural processes." - 2Yoke Design  Photo by Claire Thorington

Of the seven LBC Petals that Green Hammer tracked throughout the design-build process, the Materials Petal by far represented the greatest challenge. Green Hammer vetted more than 1,200 building materials — ranging from hardware to drywall — to ensure they did not contain any toxic and bio-accumulative substances. These “Red Listed” ingredients such as halocarbons like PVC and flame-retardants, bisphenol A (BPA), and heavy metals are all known to be harmful to human health and the environment yet are common in the building industry.

“The extraordinary depth of LBC certification exposes how far the building industry must go to control toxics in most building materials in the United States,” says Stephen Aiguier, Green Hammer founder and CEO. “To forge a positive future for the generations to come, we need property owners like Cowhorn to demonstrate that it’s possible to create healthy buildings without using toxic materials.”

Mirroring Cowhorn’s approach to farming, the materials selected for the tasting room were handpicked for their simplicity, natural beauty and chemical make-up, yet they reflect the sophistication of Cowhorn’s award-winning winemaking process. Wood, cork, glass, steel and other natural building materials bring outdoor elements into the tasting room. Green Hammer worked with Sustainable Northwest Wood to ensure that only Forest Stewardship Council®–certified wood was used in building construction. Green Hammer sourced the majority of building materials from within 600 miles of the construction site or closer.

"The exterior materials were selected as a physical reminder that great wine improves with age. The unfinished cedar will silver gracefully with age." - Erica Dunn, Green Hammer Architect 

Cowhorn’s new tasting room opened in June 2016, but achieving full LBC Certification is a long journey, and that doesn’t end when the lights go on and the doors open to the public. To achieve the Health & Happiness Petal, the exceptional air quality of the tasting room must be verified through ongoing testing. To achieve the Water and Energy Petals, the tasting room must produce more energy than it uses and supply all its own water needs through an onsite closed-loop system for at least 12 consecutive months after taking occupancy. With the installment of a 16-kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic system in February, Aiguier expects the building will have no problem achieving these goals.

“The tasting room has exceptional indoor air quality,” says Aiguier. “It will cut back significantly on energy costs due to its super-insulated, air-tight building envelope, high-performance HVAC system, and triple-paned windows. It utilizes the most efficient water-heating technology available today.”

Cowhorn’s water system is an appropriately sized, ecologically closed-loop system, where water is supplied by an on-site well and wastewater is treated on site and restored to the groundwater. To reduce its water consumption, the tasting room utilizes low-flow water fixtures and native and drought-resistant plants. “For years, we’ve been gaining a loyal following for our cool-climate, terroir-based wines and beautiful setting,” says Barbara Steele. “Now, people are drawn to this amazingly beautiful tasting room, which was cultivated with the same level of precision and intention that we devote to our grapes.”

Cowhorn Tasting Room’s Place in History

  • Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden is the first winery in the world to achieve LBC Petal Certification.
  • Since the LBC was launched in 2006, only 63 projects worldwide (four of which are in Oregon) have achieved LBC Certification.
  • Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden is home to the only tasting room that has achieved LBC Materials Petal Certification.
  • To achieve the Materials Petal, Green Hammer vetted hundreds of building materials to ensure they did not contain any toxic and bio-accumulative substances known as “Red List” ingredients.

Cowhorn Tasting Room Partners

Go HERE to download the full Case Study. 
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