From its base in the Okanagan, CEI Architecture designs wineries that seamlessly meld modern architecture with sustainability.

Some revolutions begin in the streets; others in the wine tasting room. To the surprise of many and predicted by none, the Okanagan is rapidly transforming into a setting for a wide range of sustainable architecture, and the local office of CEI Architecture Planning Interiors, this year’s winner of our Eco Designers of the Year, deserves a big chunk of the credit.vernon libraryVernon LibraryAt its helm is architect Nick Bevanda, who merged his own firm with CEI in 2010. Bevanda grew up in a family vineyard, and has now designed a half-dozen wineries. During the past decade these have become ever more involved explorations of the role that local materials and building methods can play in addressing another local element, the unique Okanagan climate. Yes, the southern Okanagan is a desert, agrees Bevanda, but it’s a desert unlike any other—one in which chilly, frequently socked-in winters are every bit as vexing as blazing hot summers. In projects such as Road 13 VineyardsTerravista Vineyards and the Wine Experience Centre at Black Hills, solutions ranging from precisely calibrated overhangs and extra-strength glazing through to the pooling of water minimize heating as well as cooling needs. At the same time visitors are offered an experience that emphasizes the local culture and environment rather than exotic notions of wine country, as might once have been the case.WL0913.DOTY15okanagan wineryokanagan wineryRoad 13 And lessons learned at the winery are now being expressed in larger and more elaborate settings, such as the recently completed Vernon Public Library and Okanagan College’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation. The latter (which, perhaps not uncoincidentally, looks as if it could gracefully be set in an Okanagan vineyard) was designed according to the standards of the Living Building Challenge, which extend beyond LEED Platinum. It has the largest array of solar panels in a non-utility building in Western Canada, the first employment of concrete/wood columns piped for heating and cooling in North America, and light pipes that reduce the need for artificial lighting by tracking the sun using mirrors. “These buildings are well adapted to the arid climate of the B.C. Interior and reflect a Western design aesthetic through the use of wood, with lots of daylight and connection to the natural environment,” says judge Thomas Mueller of the Canada Green Building Council. “Elegant and ambitious work,” sums upManasc Isaac Architects‘ Vivian Manasc. WL