While they may be hidden to the eye, our environmental commitments are everywhere.
At Bardessono we have chosen to act on our environmental values. We believe that making progress on environmental issues comes, in part, from developing working models that provide examples to follow. Our model demonstrates two things: A hotel can provide a fully luxurious guest experience and be very green at the same time, and environmental initiatives can be implemented in a manner that is practical, economic, and aesthetic.
Gorgeous woods used throughout the hotel are milled from salvaged trees. Non-toxic, non-allergenic materials were used in construction. Organic linens and cleaning supplies and recycling and composting programs are standard. Products in the restaurant and spa are sourced primarily from local organic or sustainable producers. We are not perfect. Knowledge and budgets have limits to heed. But we hope our actions have provided worthy examples for others to try.
Even though much of what we have done remains hidden to the eye, our environmental commitments are reflected everywhere. The hotel has been designed to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest standard for environmental design, and to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the choices we’ve made and the values we stand by. Our design team created a list of environmental initiatives to address every aspect of Bardessono life, most of which we were able to implement.
HEATING AND COOLING
One of the most pressing environmental needs is to reduce the demand for energy. The goal for the Bardessono project is to reduce the demand for external energy supplies – electricity, gas or oil by at least half of what a typical hotel consumes. Heating and cooling are the main sources of energy demand in a hotel. All the buildings are designed with overhangs to reduce the heat gain from the summer sun, yet allow the winter sun’s rays to enter and warm the rooms. Each room has 200 square feet of glass to allow for natural lighting. The rooms have doors and windows opening onto private patios for natural ventilation. The glass used is all low-e which reduces the temperature transfer through the glass. When sensors detect that guests are not in their room, the automatically controlled thermostats allow the temperature to raise or lower a few degrees and reduce excess energy demand. When cooling is required, the first stage of intervention is for motor controlled exterior Venetian blinds to lower to reduce the heat gain from the sun. While common in Europe, the United States has yet to adopt this approach; internal shades and drapes do almost nothing to keep out the heat from the sun. (Guests, of course, can over-ride the automatic system to raise and lower the shades as they need). Another method for reducing heat gain in the buildings is the use of reflective materials on the roofs that minimize heat absorption.
When additional heating or cooling in guest rooms is necessary, water is used from 72 300-foot wells on the property. A ground source heat pump system was developed based on these wells. The temperature of the ground water is approximately 70 degrees in these wells. The water to air heat pumps only need to change the temperature of this 70 degree water a few degrees to provide air in the guest rooms at the desired temperature. In a typical air to air heat pump, the pump is trying to change the outside air temperature, which in the hotel’s location can vary from 30 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, to the desired in room temperature. This amount of temperature change takes considerable energy. The ground source system also pre-heats domestic water to 120 degrees. The electricity used in this system is only for running the circulation and heat pumps. Building this system required significant capital investment but will pay for itself in lower energy bills.
MECHANICAL LIGHTING AND ELECTRICAL GENERATION
The large amount of glass used in each building reduces the daytime requirement for electrical lighting. LED, halogen or fluorescent bulbs are used in light fixtures throughout the property. These lights use much less energy, generate less heat and last much longer than incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are used only when the more energy efficient bulbs are not available or suitable to their function. The amount of exterior up-lighting is minimized to limit light pollution. The same system that senses occupancy and adjusts thermostats in the guest rooms also turns off the lights when the rooms are unoccupied.
Solar energy is becoming part of the solution to excessive and destructive reliance on petroleum. At the hotel, the use of solar energy is maximized by covering roofs with the most efficient solar panels available. This 200-kilowatt solar energy system provides approximately one-half the total electrical energy requirement of the property. The solar panels lie flat on the rooftops, invisible to surrounding properties. While the solar installation was a major investment, with the current and anticipated price of electricity and the subsidies available for solar installations, the payback period is less than six to eight years.
REUSE OF MATERIAL
When Steve and Pat Bardessono built their home on the property in the early 1970’s, they incorporated into it an existing stone building meant for wine storage (an underground wine cellar was not possible due to the high water table, so in the late 19th century their family built the aboveground stone “cellar”). The building was taken apart stone by stone and saved for reuse on the Bardessono exterior walls. The stone is a local limestone called Tufa. The large blocks of the Tufa stone have been sliced into tiles and used on both the exterior and interior of public spaces.
Salvaged Monterey Cypress has been milled into siding used on the exterior of several buildings. These are trees that otherwise would have been ground up or burned. Walnut trees that were pulled out by farmers at the end of their production life have been milled into the hotel’s flooring, rather than being burned. Veneers of the Walnut grace the entry doors into the guest rooms and to several public rooms. Redwood recycled from wine casks has been used on the ceilings of some of the public spaces within the hotel, and on several public room doors. Salvaged California Bay trees have become cut slabs for the desks in the guest rooms. The large tables in the public areas and dining room tables have all come from salvaged trees. The concrete used on the property has significant recycled fly ash content and the steel has a high recycled content. Many of the materials are sourced from within 500 miles of the project site to reduce the environmental impacts of deliveries. Landscaped features and permanent signage structures are made from rammed earth, celebrating the soils of Napa Valley. Constructing rammed earth structures involves the use of local soil that is then compressed inside plywood forms with water and a small amount of cement. When the forms are removed, the beautiful soil is expressed as a building material. This is an ancient method of construction used around the world.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
All glues, adhesives, finishes, paints, carpets and fabrics used at Bardessono are required to meet low volatile organic compounds (VOC) standards to vastly improve indoor air quality. Prior to putting furniture into the rooms, the rooms were ventilated with fans for several hours to remove residual construction odors. The fabrics used on interior furnishings are green certified. The use of plastic is minimized. Carpeting is certified “Green Label.” Porcelain and concrete tiles are made of natural materials that can be recycled. The glass tiles have a high recycled glass content. The linens and terry used in the guest rooms are all made from organic fibers. Carpeting and draperies, which often harbor dust mites and odors, are not used in the guest rooms. The combination of low VOC compound materials, no carpeting and drapes, all organic linens, terry and cleaning supplies, greatly reduces any potential allergens in the rooms.
LOW WATER USE
Indoors, bathroom fixtures with low water flow have been installed, along with dual flush toilets and waterless urinals. Outdoors, native and drought tolerant plants have been chosen for landscaping in order to minimize water demand. In turn, the drip irrigation system is also designed for maximum efficiency, minimizing water waste. All grey and black water is treated and recycled for irrigation use by the Town of Yountville.
Development is held back from the creek a minimum of 35 feet and the area in between is landscaped with native riparian plants. The goal is to create a healthy vegetative environment for native animals and fish, as well as minimize any silting of the creek through runoff.
The general contractor set up a system to recycle project waste materials while the project was under construction. Amazingly, they were able to recycle over 93 percent of construction waste generated during this time. All the subcontractors were similarly involved in recycling their waste.