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Local winery earns Living Building Challenge certification, first in the world

Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden recently received a Living Building Challenge certification with the help of Green Hammer - a green building company out of Portland. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Applegate Valley, Ore. - Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden prides itself on growing all of their grapes and produce organically - that was the initial draw to earning the Living Building Challenge distinction.

"It's the biodynamic equivalent of construction," Bill Steele, co-owner of the winery, said.

The tasting room at Cowhorn wasted only 5% of its materials in construction, provides enough solar power to be self-sustaining and leaves as minimal a carbon footprint as possible. Steele says he and his wife aim for that minimal footprint.

"That became the basis for our choosing biodynamic farming and the building was just an extension," Steele said.

Steele says the building is "alive" in a sense. Instead of many typical materials, the tasting room was built out of local cedar, cork and core-10 steel that, instead of rusting, patinas instead to provide another protective layer when it rains along with a reddish-orange color.

From first signing the documents to take the challenge through construction, it's taken three years to complete the building. Three weeks ago, the building earned that Living Building Challenge honor.

"Now we've got a tasting room that really stands out," Steele said. "It is the first tasting room in the world to be certified Living Building Challenge and it's something we take a lot of pride in."

Steele takes even more pride in one other aspect of the tasting room.

"My wife and I are very proud that it was done in southern Oregon," Steele said. "First of it's kind. It wasn't done in Washington, it wasn't done in California. We had a tremendous group of anywhere from 50 to 75 subcontractors in the area that came together to build this building."

Even from an outsider's perspective, the building strikes the customer as one of a kind.

"It just looks different, it feels different, it's got a cleanliness to it almost from an air quality perspective," Steele said.

For our original coverage on Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden, click here.

To learn more about the Living Building Challenge, click here.

As of last week, there are only 64 buildings in the world Living Building Challenge certified - four of those are in Oregon.

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