Endive cold-storage building features energy savings

05/21/2012 11:58:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

RIO VISTA, Calif. — Richard Collins, president of California Vegetable Specialties, likes to threaten to perform a not-ready-for-primetime stand-up comedy routine.

But he and his partners, S.C. Darbonne, Milly-la-Foret, France, don’t joke when it comes to the long-term viability and expansion of their Belgian endive production and marketing business.

Vicky BoydCalifornia Vegetable Specialties former board chairman Luc Darbonne (left), and president Richard Collins talk after dedicating a new cooling facility at the company.On May 18, the companies dedicated a 20,000-square-foot cold-storage facility expected to save up to 75% on electricity costs while providing a more stable environment for storing chicory roots used to produce endive.

“French endive growers have a saying — the cold room is not a hospital,” Collins said. “The root goes into storage for up to 10 months and won’t come out any better. At best, it will come out in the same condition.”

Collins was referring to the two-step process used to produce Belgian endive. Chicory seeds are planted in the spring in fields and the roots — harvested in the fall — are put in 29-degree cold storage from 30 days up to 10 months.

As orders come in, workers pull the roots from storage, place them upright in trays and put them in temperature-controlled dark rooms to force leaf production.

After about 30 days, workers harvest the tops, which are packed and sold as Belgian endive.

This year, Collins said his company expects to produce a total of about 5 million pounds of white California Pearl and red Belles Rouges endive.

Before the cold storage was built adjacent to the Rio Vista production facility, California Vegetable Specialties relied on Lomo Cold Storage, Live Oak, about 97 miles to the north, Collins said.

‘Off-the-chart’ insulation

The building’s concept is the brainchild of Gary Block, a University of California-Berkeley associate architect professor who’s been experimenting with energy-saving construction techniques for nearly 40 years.

The building’s frame is recycled steel trusses, said Cullen Burda, vice president of Integrated Structures Inc., project architect and engineer.

What’s unique is the cement envelope design that provides an R-100 insulation factor and requires a smaller refrigeration unit to maintain cold temperatures, Burda said.

California building codes only require R-28 insulation for similar buildings.

“The insulation is pretty much off the charts,” he said. “They’re actually shutting down refrigeration between noon and 6.”


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JV    
Chico, CA  |  May, 22, 2012 at 06:14 PM

If those energy numbers are correct, it will change the whole industry of cold storage.

tim    
gilroy  |  May, 23, 2012 at 01:52 PM

High R-values are easily achieved with a variety of existing technologies. The only hard part is getting people to pay for the insulation and installation.

Jill    
Marin  |  May, 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM

Seems like under 3 year ROI and pays for the entire building with energy savings in half the mortgage should get people to pay for insulation and installation.

Winn    
Oakland  |  May, 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM

Energy prices aren't going down. Seems like a no brainer with those kind of savings.

Skip Novakovich    
Kennewick, Washington  |  May, 24, 2012 at 05:45 PM

I am continually amazed at the long term cost savings featured being designed into buildings by Integrated Structures. Gary, Cullen, Jenny and the others they work with at Integrated Structures are absolutely amazing in what they are able to design for their clients.

JV    
Chico, CA  |  May, 25, 2012 at 02:26 PM

With a little digging I was able to find the website for the wall system used at CVS: http://energymasswall.com Really interesting stuff... and it doesn't look like it would be that much more expensive than a typical building because they are using mainly off the shelf components...

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