Built with rice straw bales the Claiborne & Churchill Winery is an environmentally sustainable and energy efficient building. The winery was the first commercial strawbale building in California and received an American Institute of Architects design merit award.
Rice straw, a waste by-product, is normally burned in the fields after harvest because it is extremely decay resistant. Using rice straw as a building material replaces wood frame construction saving timber forests and eliminating air pollution from straw burning. The winery requires no heating or cooling due to the high insulation value of the rice strawbale walls, a considerable energy and economic savings both initially as well as over its lifetime. The strawbale walls were built during an old fashioned barn raising party. Total building costs were approximately $60,000 less than conventional wood framing. Additionally, since no HVAC system was needed, there was an initial savings of $10,000 plus annual energy savings estimated to be approximately $1200 per year over the lifetime of the building, or $60,000 over fifty years at 1997 prices. This amounts to a conservative total of over $140,00 savings, all while providing a wonderful and functional building and saving the environment.
This project has been publicized on NPR radio, several television and news specials and many magazine and newspaper articles since opening, creating a large following of strawbale enthusiasts and a strawbale niche in the commercial building arena. The owners have created a special wine and label in commemoration of their strawbale building and comment that many of the winery visitors come to experience the building as much as to taste the wine.
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