Besides the open spaces provided by the structure, another central design feature of the winery is the dual-tank elevator system that bisects the space and travels the full height of the building. It is the simplified essence of the gravity-flow concept. Winemaker J-L Groux is able to lift grapes and wine as many times as necessary to move them without using pumps at all.
This includes during bottling. Groux states that, with the tank elevator at the top of its 35-foot (11-meter) travel, they achieve 8 pounds per square inch (55,000 pascals) pressure at the bottling machine through gravity alone. This can be sufficient, but when additional pressure is needed for in-line filtration before bottling, the wine can be pushed out of the pressure-ready tanks with inert gas.
Another facet of the design's commitment to the use of gravity is at the mezzanine level where the grapes begin their journey toward becoming wine. The mezzanine is suspended from the middle of the structural frame, allowing access to all other parts of the production area. After grapes are lifted via freight elevator, the fruit is processed and can flow downward by gravity to tanks or presses.
While the barrel room has not been put underground or insulated in any unusual way, the concept for climate control in the winery is another creative implementation of technology. Twenty-four wells, each with a depth of 225 feet (69 meters), serve a GHP system that provides heating and cooling. This system has been integrated not only into the building's climate control but also into individually temperature-controlled wine tanks to control fermentation.
Despite a relatively high construction cost, GHP systems are reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to save 30 to 40 percent on heating and cooling bills, which theoretically recovers the initial investment in three to five years. The EPA also cites a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 55 to 60 percent as a result of the much greater efficiency of this system.
Reducing greenhouse gases and other environmental damage was a priority for the designers of Stratus, and the GHP system was one of several elements that Andrew and his team used to achieve the LEED certification.
Another major factor in the certification was extensive use of recycled construction materials. Also, stones in the parking lot were chosen to reduce light-reflected warmth, workers were given bike racks and lockers, and a hybrid, gas-electric Toyota Prius hauls winery deliveries.
As winery architecture continues to evolve in the 21st century, successful examples like Stratus will inform future designs. However, there continues to be room for new design approaches to integrating the building with the winemaking process and taking advantage of technologies to further improve natural resource management and reduce environmental harm.
Michael Lundeen is currently an Oregon-based winemaker with education and training in architecture and a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.
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