A plan for solar-powered winemaking is working “even better than expected,” according to the electrical engineers who developed it. One of the noted glamour projects of 2009, the Hall Estate Winery in Napa Valley, CA was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry for owners Craig and Kathryn Hall, the prominent financiers and art patrons.

When this A-team constellation of architecture, art, and influence sought an engineer to green-power their landmark $100-million project, they turned to Los Angeles-based IBE Consulting Engineers. “We build sustainable systems into every assignment, a process that starts early in project conversations,” says Alan Locke, PE, founder of IBE Consulting Engineers. “The Hall Estate Winery was an especially productive effort, as the owner and architects were committed to true environmental stewardship.” A mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering firm, IBE Consulting Engineers crafts building systems to complement owner and architect visions of sustainable, livable built environments.

The Hall Estate Winery project anticipates 120,000 square feet of new development within a 33-acre vineyard near St. Helena, CA. The winery’s Visitors Center has not yet been built, but the two-building, 41,900-square-foot production facility was recently completed and is operating. Master-planned by Gehry, the production facility was designed by St. Helena, CA-based Lail Design Group.

Among other assignments, IBE Consulting Engineers was tasked to design the production facility’s MEP systems to cut energy use, both total and from the grid. IBE conceived systems for both rooftop solar power and radiant flooring to control production-room temperatures. For the solar-powered system, IBE Consulting Engineers developed specifications and reviewed vendor options before designing a 42,000-square-foot installation that provides 35 percent of the winery’s energy needs. William Dahl, Jr., senior associate at IBE, consulted with Gehry to select panels and configurations that fulfilled the architects’ aesthetic criteria. For the radiant system, water piping was installed into the winery’s cement floors, allowing cold or warm water to run through the substrata to efficiently regulate production-room temperatures. Radiant heat is one of the most-efficient room-temperature control methods.

As a result of the collaboration among owner, architects, and engineer, the Hall Estate Winery has earned a LEED Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The vintner’s solar-power system is actually slightly exceeding expectations, says Dahl. “We are producing a little more power over our estimate with brand new and clean panels,” he says. “The panels can be washed, and output is monitored online.”