Clif Bar's new Idaho bakery has biophilic design baked in

Clif Bakery
© Clif

Biophilia was defined by Edward O. Wilson “as the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. The famous entomologist also said “Most children have a bug period, and I never grew out of mine.” In architecture, biophilic designs, according to the Living Building Challenge, “include elements that nurture the innate human/ nature connection."

The new bakery for Clif Bar in Twin Falls, Idaho may be the first designed around biophilic principles. Fortunately they are not in their bug period, and are affiliating with other forms of life, namely planting, shrubs, and lots of windows to connect with the outdoors. From the press release:

The new 300,000-square-foot bakery features a host of biophilic design elements integrated into the bakery’s original design, including more than 200 windows, vaulted skylights, light-directing solatubes, indoor walls of recycled barnwood and natural stone, indoor plants and sliding doors that connect an auditorium to an outdoor events space. A packaging area without exterior windows offers wall-projected images of the natural outdoors that rotate daily.

Interior© Clif

This is not common in any kind of building, let alone a big industrial facility like a bakery.

“This is the first bakery—and manufacturing facility of any kind in the nation that I know of to incorporate biophilic features from the outset,” said Bill Browning, a leading expert in biophilic design and a founding partner of Terrapin Bright Green design consultants in New York….Studies show biophilia is a win-win for companies and workers, resulting in increased feelings of happiness and vitality, reduced stress, lower heart rates, fewer sick days and increased productivity, according to Browning, who consulted with Clif Bar on the bakery’s design.

The building is also going for LEED certification. The CEO of the company, Kevin Cleary, says in the press release:

It was really important to us that our Twin Falls bakery embodied our company values. We wanted it to be a healthy, welcoming place for people to work—a workplace that sustains our people, the community and the planet.

And indeed, there are lots of green goodies in this building, including the use of renewable power, reducing water use compared to other bakeries by 30 percent, reflective roofs and efficient refrigeration. The power they do use comes from renewable energy. And since we keep saying how you get to work is as important as what you get to, they say they are paying attention to transportation:

Sustainable transportation provided and encouraged. Includes fuel-efficient, low emission bakery vehicles; bike racks with tire pumps for commuters and fat tire bikes for navigating the grounds of the one-third mile long bakery. Employees can accrue points for carpooling, biking and walking to work that can be exchanged for cash, Clif Bar gear or wellness benefits.

clif bar site© Google Earth/ Clif Bar Site

That's a good thing, because the employees are going to need to eat a lot of Clif bars to make it to work by bike or hike. It appears that the factory is in the middle of nowhere, in what Google Earth shows to be the middle of Idaho cornfields, some of which are being converted into what looks like an industrial park.

Clif bar walk scoreWalk Score/Screen capture

And in fact, Walkscore comes up with a big fat zero, and notes that it takes an hour to cycle into the center of town.

I am a big fan of Clif Bar; I always buy them when I go hiking. TreeHugger loves them too, and has done many posts on them and their eco-minded marketing campaigns. LEED has done great things and obviously, biophilia is as green as it gets.

Dining room© Clif/ dining room with view

But perhaps more than anything else these days, location matters. It has been demonstrated many times that the carbon footprint of transport to an office or factory is often greater than the footprint of the building itself; Alex Wilson called it the Transportation Energy Intensity. Companies can put in bike racks and give points for carpooling and other incentives, but shouldn’t the first choice be to build on something other than cornfields so far out of town. They are beautiful to look at from the dining room windows, but it’s not fun walking or cycling there in January.

Some certifications, like the Living Building Challenge, require that the building be operated for a year to see if it lives up to the promises made. It will be interesting to check back on the Clif Bar bakery in a year, to see how many people biked or carpooled, to see how many cars are in that parking lot, and whether they are Nissan Leafs or F150 pickups. That's when we will know if this building is really green.

Tags: Green Building | LEED

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