For 25 years, Jackson Family Wines, the California vintner that produces the Kendall-Jackson line along with some 40 other brands, has dealt in red and white wines. But these days, its wines are increasingly green as well. The winemaker, which established a formal sustainability program in 2008, has launched a number of eco-initiatives in the past two years even in the face of a struggling economy. "In a very challenging economic environment, we have done a pretty good job of [maintaining our] commitment to sustainable practices," says Robert Boller, the company's vice president of sustainability.
Although many of the programs involve stewardship of the land—water conservation, soil erosion controls, eliminating certain herbicides/insecticides—they're not limited to sustainable farming. The Santa Rosa-based vintner, which ships about 5 million cases a year to distributors throughout the country and around the world, has also taken steps to reduce the carbon footprint of its distribution operations.
So it followed naturally that when the company decided to build a new DC, it made sustainability a priority. Jackson Family Wines, along with its developer and general contractor, went into the project with the intention of building a DC that would qualify for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The LEED program, which is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), requires a facility to meet specific standards in five key areas: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.
"From the beginning, being very conscious of our impact on the environment was critical," says Kathryn Zepaltas, director of logistics for Jackson Family Wines.
A need to consolidate
The decision to build a new DC grew out of the company's desire to consolidate what had become a tangled network of distribution operations. "At one point, in addition to the main DC [a 150,000-square-foot facility at the company's Santa Rosa winery], we had 11 other places where wine was stored," recalls Zepaltas. "What was happening was that 75 percent of our production was moving to another site before moving back to the main DC. That meant lots of extra handling and transportation."
That extra handling was not only inefficient, it also affected the integrity of the packaging, Zepaltas reports. In addition, the scattered operations made it difficult to manage inventory and ensure outbound goods were on hand when needed. Management agreed that distribution had to be consolidated into a single large DC.
The original plan was to find an existing building close to the company's Santa Rosa production facility. But when it couldn't find a suitable property, the winemaker decided to build instead. After canvassing the area, the company's site search team settled on a vacant site in American Canyon, Calif.
The 30-acre site offered a number of advantages from a sustainability perspective. To begin with, it was close enough to the Santa Rosa plant to ensure the company could continue its fleet backhaul program. After delivering wine to the DC from the Santa Rosa plant, the company's dry vans would be able to pick up bottles from a supplier just a few miles away for the return trip—an arrangement that would hold down transportation costs as well as carbon emissions.
The site also offered access to rail. "That was very important," says Zepaltas. Using rail instead of trucks for long-haul shipping will also cut down on freight costs and emissions.
Although it remained closely involved throughout the process, Jackson Family Wines did not build the $27.8 million facility itself. Instead, it arranged to have real estate development company Scannell Properties buy the property, contract for the building's construction, and then lease it back to the winemaker. For the general contractor, Scannell and Jackson Family Wines chose Sierra View General Contractors, which has experience with LEED projects. Construction was overseen by Paul Zenak, a LEED Accredited Professional who has deep knowledge of the certification requirements.
Zenak says the final design for the warehouse emerged over the course of nine months, which included regular reviews by Jackson Family Wines. Construction took an additional 11 months. The construction project benefited to some extent from the poor economy, Zenak says. Because of the slowdown, Sierra View was able to subcontract with some of the best construction firms in the state. "We had hungry contractors in a poor economy. We had top-notch tradesmen available," Zenak says. "I dare say that if we had not had this economy, construction would have taken 14 months instead of 11."
Conserving energy and water
The new 650,000-square-foot building—that's 15 acres under one roof—incorporates a number of energy-saving features. They include a highly reflective white membrane roof to reduce heat absorption, motion detectors to keep lights off in unoccupied areas, and the latest T8 efficient fluorescent lighting. In addition, the building's roof is designed to accept a solar array, although Jackson Family Wines decided to forgo installing the costly system for the time being.
Those energy-saving features have already earned the company a $200,000 rebate from the local utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric, which offers incentives for energy-efficient building design. (Zenak says that of the $200,000 incentive, $160,000 came as a result of the energy-efficient lighting.) Overall, Sierra View says, the building will use 61 percent less energy than a LEED-defined baseline model. "We met every energy-savings goal and then some," adds Zepaltas.
The building has a number of other eco-friendly attributes as well. It will use 40 percent less water than the baseline model and includes 50 percent more open space. The water treatment system makes use of ultraviolet light and electrical impulses, instead of chemicals, to eliminate bacterial and fungal growth.
In a bid to minimize transportation-related carbon emissions, Sierra View used local vendors for construction materials as much as possible. It also limited the use of volatile organic compounds in the DC's construction and paid extra attention to ventilation systems in order to maintain good indoor air quality.
In keeping with LEED requirements, the builder had to make a special effort to reduce construction waste. Zenak reports that the company was required to separate waste into distinct waste streams—metals, wood, cardboard, paper, concrete, etc. Ultimately, he says, 83 percent of the project's waste stream was recycled.
The project was not without its challenges. For one thing, the site presented some difficulties. Construction required filling a 0.8-acre wetland, Zenak says, which had to be restored elsewhere on the site. The builders were able to exceed that requirement.
For another, the client's stringent climate control requirements meant the builder had to work within strict tolerances. To maintain the quality of the wine stored on site, temperatures must stay within a couple of degrees of 56–57 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Zepaltas. "We produce some super quality wine, and want to make sure care of that wine was five-star all the way," she says. "When someone is buying a $200 Bordeaux, we want to ensure that it has been cared for tenderly."
Last month, the company began shipping wine from the new facility, which it co-occupies with Biagi Bros., a Napa, Calif.-based trucking and warehousing company. (Biagi Bros., which specializes in beverage logistics, handles Jackson Family Wines' operations in the DC.) Zepaltas says the new DC will initially store about 2 million cases, which will grow to 3 million over time.
As for its plans to obtain a LEED certification, Jackson Family Wines expects the new building will earn at least a silver, and perhaps a gold, certification when USGBC completes the evaluation process. (Certification can take as much as six months from the time an application is submitted.)
Looking back on the project, Zenak acknowledges that eco-friendly construction can be a bit more expensive than traditional methods, but he says it should have a big payoff down the road. "On average, it can increase up-front costs by 2 to 4 percent," he says, "but efficiencies can save operating expenses in the long run."
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