After years (and years!) of work, Sierra Nevada was awarded LEED Platinum for the new ~700,000 barrel per year brewery in Mills River, North Carolina last week. This was among my first projects after starting Ember Strategies (along with the City Energy Project) at the end of 2013, and I served as an energy engineer and the energy modeler for the project. The payoff was worth the wait, as we were only expecting Gold but managed to get Platinum by maxing out the energy efficiency and renewable energy credits.
A point of pride for me is the fact that we got those points by including the brewing process energy in the LEED submission. Most projects exclude process energy, but we wanted SNBC to get credit for all they were doing. The team worked very hard to maximize the energy efficiency in the building and the brewing process, with tons of heat recovery, and even heat recovery from the heat recovery! (The heat from cooking the mash is recovered with a condenser above the kettle, but then the heat left in the condensed liquid is also recovered separately.) Add a biogas reactor on-site receiving spent yeast and filtered solids from the beer, two 200 kW microturbines using that biogas, and roof and parking lot solar arrays and you can see how we managed to get there….and why the energy model was quite the undertaking!
It is nice to see a company get credit for going above and beyond, but there were many things that SNBC does at the brewery for which no LEED credits exist, especially on water efficiency. For example, they figured out a way to use the waste heat left in the pipes after the brewing systems are cleaned to warm the bottled beer for bottle conditioning, and then recover the water back into the cleaning system without dumping a drop. LEED credited the energy savings, but the water savings are actually more impressive.
Really, they deserve better than Platinum, perhaps a “LEED Copper” certification, a reference you’ll understand if you visit for yourself or flip through these incredible pictures.
A huge amount of recognition is deserved by the project team, including Design Workshop in Aspen, RGA Architects in Chico, Clanton Associates in Boulder, and MCI HVAC in Charlotte. For me personally, the guys and gals on-site in Chico and Mills River who patiently explained the basics of brewing to this building engineer during visit after visit are the reason we did not have to settle for Gold.
Of course I am biased, but cheers (with a Pale Ale) to the greenest brewery in the world!