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California Project Illustrates Benefits Of Combining Solar And Metal For Winery Construction


Foxen Winery exemplifies the trend in California's wine region for using metal building systems and components, combined with solar roof systems. Products utilized on the project above included a metal building system from Varco Pruden Buildings, insulated metal wall panels from Kingspan Insulated Panels and metal roofing by Morin. All told, the $4.8 million project involved three building with a combined 25,000 sq. ft. of space. Click images to enlarge.              15x15box

By Marge O’Connor,

The Central Coast of California is well known for producing some of America's finest wines. The region’s wineries also are becoming known for using the unbeatable combination of renewable and sustainable resources -- solar systems and metal buildings.

The design flexibility offered by pre-engineered metal buildings and insulated metal roof and wall panels make them an ideal match for winery construction, which has its own distinct needs. For example, R-values of R-33 are typically required for winery roof and wall systems to maximize energy efficiency. Metal panels meet that level while allowing for ease of wash down that is required as part of the winemaking process.

Solar systems also are ideal for wineries’ heavy energy needs. Typically wineries use a tremendous amount of energy during crush to accommodate production, cooling, and storage, and their tasting facilities are generally open seven days a week. In this area of California that boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year, a solar system can provide a tremendous amount of renewable energy to fully support these activities.


The Foxen Winery in Santa Barbara County offers an interesting example. Project architect Val Milosevic of Pismo Beach, and owners Dick Dore and Bill Wathen, chose the solar and metal building combination for recent construction of new winery facilities.

This was the first major building project for the 25-year-old business, and included three separate structures: a 7,300 square foot case goods warehouse; a 15,816-square-foot winery production and barrel room facility; and a 2,394-square-foot building that holds a tasting room and offices. Project cost was approximately $4.8 million for the three buildings, which total 25,510 square feet.

Work on the project began in August 2008 and was completed and ready for harvest time by July 2009. General contractor was San Luis Obispo-based Rarig Construction Inc., the largest metal building contractor on California’s Central Coast. According to Steve Rarig, president of the company, his crews erected all of the new buildings.

At the heart of the project are pre-engineered metal buildings from VP Buildings complemented by insulated wall panels from Kingspan Insulated Panels. The secondary framing members (girts and purlins) are galvanized to withstand the corrosive environment during the crush, fermentation, and barrel aging processes. This project also uses a Simple Saver roof insulation system that installs below the purlins to allow any thickness of fiberglass to be used without being compressed or degraded during installation.

The only non-metal building is the tasting room, which is wood construction with cedar siding. However, all of the roofs are corrugated with Rust Ridge, a Corten color, and manufactured by Morin.

“Although we had not worked for Foxen before, our company has worked with the architect on many other winery buildings and other design-build projects using metal buildings systems. The biggest focal point and concern for Foxen was to lay out the warehouse roof facing directly south at the correct angle and roof pitch to capture the maximum solar energy. The solar panels are expected to generate most of the winery’s power needs,” Rarig says.

The south-facing solar array consists of 180 panels and is mounted on the case goods warehouse. The system is designed to generate 60,000 kilowatt hours annually, which is expected to cover at least 70 percent of the winery’s annual energy needs. For the first year the solar system was operating (summer of 2009 to summer of 2010) it generated 100 percent of the winery’s energy needs. However, the winery was not completely at full production during that entire period.  

The majority of the winery’s electric needs are for refrigeration and cooling that controls temperature in the tanks, barrel rooms and the case goods warehouse, particularly in the areas dedicated to storage and to the fermenting process. 

The owners’ decision to install a solar system was based primarily on wanting to reduce energy consumption to conserve natural resources, but also to trim operating costs. Determining the parameters of the solar system and its integration with the metal roofing was a team effort between representatives from the solar system designer and installer, REC Solar of San Luis Obispo, CA, Rarig, the architect, and the Foxen owners. 

“We held many pre-construction meetings to discuss designing and building the right solar system. REC Solar also came up with a special method to install their racking system to the corrugated metal roof. Their attachment system had fewer roof penetrations and was watertight. There was also design consideration given to the solar panel roof layout to allow the County of Santa Barbara Fire Department access to the roof panels and be able to cut holes in the roof in the event of a fire,” says Rarig.

Although metal roofs are non-combustible, fire departments need access to a building’s roof to deal with internal building combustion. Rarig erected the complete metal building system including siding and roofing with its own crews and also self-performed all concrete work and finish carpentry work.

State rebates and federal tax credits covered 47.6 percent of the $250,000 cost of the solar system. Estimates by REC Solar show that the system will provide a greater than 10 percent return on investment. The owners expect about a thirteen-year payback on the system based on previous energy usage.

The owners will also reap the benefits of low maintenance and high durability provided by the metal buildings, walls and roofs.

Editor's note: Throughout our website you'll find hundreds of examples of energy-efficient designs that feature metal construction products. You can browse projects by category in our Project Type Gallery, or by product type in our Design Solutions section. You can also find providers of metal construction products by searching our Supplier Directory.

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