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New UC-Davis Net Zero Sustainable Winery Will Turn Water Into Wine Into Chalk

The newly opened Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building at the University of California, Davis includes a full lineup of futuristic green tech bells and whistles, and the one that has us most intrigued is a system for sequestering carbon dioxide from all the fermentation that is going to take place within its walls. The system will be installed within the next few years and once completed, it will convert carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate, more commonly known as chalk. Hey, don’t you need a sea urchin for that?

UC-Davis opens net zero sustainable winery

Wine by derekGavey.

Converting Carbon Dioxide Into Chalk

If that sea urchin/calcium carbonate thing rings a bell, you may recall that earlier this year a research team at Newcastle University uncovered the secret behind the sea urchin’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide into its exoskeleton, which could lead to an inexpensive method for carbon sequestration from factory emissions or, for that matter, from wineries.

In the course of a detailed study of the carbonic acid reaction (the reaction of carbon dioxide with water), the team took a look at the exoskeletens of sea urchin larvae and discovered high levels of nickel. When the team added a nickel catalyst to their carbonic acid test the result was “complete removal” of carbon dioxide.

The discovery is significant because previous attempts at calcium carbonate conversion have involved an enzyme that is very finicky and delicate, resulting in a very expensive process.

Nickel, on the other hand, is a cheap, hardy catalyst that works efficiently in acid conditions and can be re-used many times.

The Sustainable Winery Of The Future

Our sister site PlanetSave.com has been keeping tabs on eco-friendly wines, and the new Jess S. Jackson building provides a glimpse of the direction in which things are heading.

The $4 million project was mainly funded through a $3 million pledge from the owners of Jackson Family Wines (parent company of Kendall-Jackson). The last time we checked in on the company, it was the force behind the development of a new water reclamation system for wineries that recycles both waste water and heat, so the new building is a real legacy project that will have a lasting impact on the entire industry.

Barbara Banke, wife of the late Jess Jackson, noted that “the opportunity to develop, build and share best practices in energy conservation, water management and other world-class sustainability standards was something we were honored to help bring to fruition.”

When the building is fully outfitted, it is expected to achieve Net Zero Energy certification under the Living Building Challenge, making it the first building at a university to obtain that designation (and only the second building in California, to boot).

One highlight of the winery’s equipment is of course water reclamation, given the copious amount of water involved in wine making. The main feature will be a system for capturing and filtering rainwater for use in cleaning fermentors and barrels. About 90 percent of the waste water from cleaning will be recaptured and re-used as many as ten times more.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that UC-Davis is also tackling the water reclamation issue on behalf of the state’s olive industry as well.

A carbon dioxide-to-chalk conversion system is also included in future plans (no word yet on whether or not sea urchins will be involved), along with a solar-powered icemaker that will produce chilled water and generate hydrogen gas for use in a fuel cell.


As for the building itself, it includes a number of passive climate control features such as super-insulation (R-59.5 for the walls and R-76 for the roof), deep porches for extra protection against summer heat, a planned rock bed for heat retention in cool weather, and natural ventilation.

Keeping the building’s sought-after Net Zero status in mind, the roof is also generously sized, allowing more space for photovoltaic arrays.

Other major construction elements include the use of carbon-sequestering cement blocks with a 90 percent cement replacement mix for the slab and foundations.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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