Proof in the Living Roof

By Hilary Berg, OWP Editor

When it comes to being green, it is easy to envision what vineyards and wineries might do to achieve sustainability—reduce pesticides, compost, recycle, install solar panels, etc. For an urban wine business located in the heart of industrial East Portland, the steps to a more earth-friendly business don’t seem as evident.

But for the tenants at Central Wine Warehouse, it IS clear, with, of course, vibrant shades of green.

Among its 40,000 square feet, Portland Wine Storage occupies over 60 percent of the building along with other wine-centric businesses, including direct importers and distributors, wine producers, Internet wine clubs and Portland Wine Gear. In fact, this is the nation’s only facility to house these types of wine businesses all within a single structure.

Aside from grapegrowing, every step of the wine business cycle is represented at Central Wine Warehouse. In addition to offering a complete range of wine-related services under a single roof, it has become a unique and growing incubator for innovation and new partnerships among different businesses in the wine business cycle and a forerunner in cost-efficient and environmentally sound building management.

In 2005, Portland Wine Storage Owners Joe Padulo and Tom Harvey began investigating the possibility of replacing the existing roof with a green, or “eco”, roof. The function of a green roof is to absorb rainwater that traditionally flows off roofs via downspouts, and into a city’s sewage and/or stormwater system. Green roofs also provide greater insulation at a very low cost, while at the same time creating a growing space for plant life and even vegetable gardens.

The building underwent seismic retrofitting in 2007; construction of a green roof began the following year. The old roof was replaced with recycled foam insulation, a water-tight membrane and soil. The 20,000-square-foot roof was seeded in fall 2008; by spring 2009, the roof had transformed into a lush, living, insulating and water-absorbent environment, populated with native plants from the Willamette Valley.

The green roof is also equipped with a rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater from the roof is diverted to cisterns in the warehouse basement. Gray water (water that is clean but not potable) from the green roof is used to flush toilets year round; in the summer months, water from the cisterns is pumped back up to the green roof to water native vegetation. With the new roof, the building’s stormwater runoff into the sewer system is reduced by 80 percent; the insulation provided by the roof has resulted in 60 percent savings in heating and cooling costs. And, the green roof is projected to have double the lifespan of a traditional roof.

Future plans to continue reducing the environmental impact of Central Wine Warehouse include integrating solar panels into the rooftop environment.

For Portland Wine Storage alone, the green roof is just the beginning. Padulo and Harvey have based their entire business in a subterranean environment—fancy for ‘basement’—that let’s them utilize passive climate control conditions. They follow a rigorous recycling program that includes: sending wine bottles to amateur winemakers to re-use; saving all wine packaging and giving it to retail shops, tourists and pretty much anybody who asks; and separating all their various wastes and hand delivering them to their appropriate recycling centers. They even make vinegar out of leftover wine. In addition to all this, Padulo and Harvery also sell wine in a wine-of-the-month format, featuring organic and biodynamic wine.

For more information on the Central Wine Warehouse and Portland Wine Storage, check out

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