Sep 18, 2023
With eco-friendly construction becoming the standard, not the trend, the question of how that relates to wine cellar design is becoming more common.
The simple answer is it takes a lot of work. By nature, conditioned wine cellars consume a lot of energy as the cooling units are set to reach and maintain an extremely cold household temperature, which means the machines are on most of the day (especially when you throw in the glass display trends that force larger-than-normal cooling units into relatively small spaces).
But it is possible to create luxurious wine rooms — with glass and cooling — and still meet the requirements of LEED and other green building certifications. LEED is the preeminent program for the design, construction, maintenance, and operations of high-performance green buildings.
- This article is part of the Complete Guide to Building the Modern Wine Cellar. Learn about this topic and earn either AIA or IDCEC credit.
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Below Grade Wine Cellars
The easiest way to maintain high energy efficiency is to scrap technology altogether and build a wine room like Europeans have done for centuries: below grade.
The average temperature of the soil beneath a structure is likely close to 55°F (13°C), though warmer climates vary. That is the magic wine cellaring number. This is why its common to see centuries old caves and other below ground cellars still in use today in Bordeaux, Piedmont, and all of the other amazing Old World wine regions of the world.
Creating a cellar space in an unconditioned section of a basement can provide near perfect conditions for wine aging without adding the carbon footprint of a cooling unit. There may be a need to insulate interior walls that touch conditioned rooms in the basement, but that is about it.
If the conditions are still above desired for the wine room, cooling can still be added and it would use less energy that if the storage were placed above grade since the ambient temperatures are likely closer to ideal than other spaces in the home or restaurant.
Out of the Cellar
When a wine room is removed from the cellar, the task of being eco-friendly becomes more challenging. Light, fluctuating heat sources, and other conditions make it more difficult to hit the ideal cellaring conditions. If clients are seriously concerned about the footprint of their conditioned wine room on the main floor, it is recommended that they:
- avoid or reduce glass use; recommend framed glass
- invest in premium installation products
- downsize the space
- keep the cellar thermostat at 64°F (18°C).
For glass wine rooms, especially using frameless glass, the only solution to make a room environmentally friendly is fueling the energy of the home via renewables such as solar or wind or using other creative solutions to minimize impact.
One great example of innovation in this realm is District Winery in Washington DC. The cellar reuses the cooled air that is created for the production area, reducing the need for extra energy to keep the thousands of bottles in optimal conditions. Check out the District Winery Case Study for more.
Green Certifications for Wine Rooms
Wineries and homes with wine cellars are increasingly committing to going green. In 2002, Sokol Blosser Winery in Oregon became the first North American winery to earn LEED certification.
Showcase homes continue to prove that a home can have a showpiece wine cellar and earn highly regarded environmental certifications. The New American Remodel 2022 in Orlando earned LEED Platinum certification (with a framed glass wine room). The New American Home 2023 in Las Vegas is National Green Building Standard Green Certified at the Emerald level, even with two climate-controlled, frameless glass wine cellars.
It’s worthy of note, however, that if a wine cellar is above grade and features glass, its addition will be a hurdle to overcome in the certification process rather than something that improves the carbon contribution of the project.
This article is part of the Complete Guide to Building the Modern Wine Cellar.