The Culinary Institute of America at Copia Achieves Sustainable Perfection

Located in Napa Valley, California—the pinnacle destination for exploring the world of food and wine—the Culinary Institute of America at Copia (CIAC) campus achieves sustainable perfection.

GraniteCrete permeable paving pathway at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia Napa.
GraniteCrete is featured next to the reflecting pool walkway at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia

“CIA at Copia is a first for The Culinary Institute of America, entirely dedicated to offering its innovative, industry-leading food and wine education and experiences to the public. It opens a window into what the CIA truly is: a visionary thought-leader and innovator in food and beverage, with world-class faculty and facilities.” 

-Thomas Bensel, managing director of CIA’s California campus

The CIAC is a branch of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).  It’s led by Strategic Initiative Groups, which works with other culinary institutes to ensure guests and students are provided with the best and most up-to-date information.  The Copia building was originally utilized by the Copia museum from 2001 to 2008; the CIA acquired the building in 2015 and redesigned the facility with sustainability in mind. 

The CIAC campus is truly a sustainable marvel.  It features various solar, water, and renewable material strategies in its design. The campus also prioritizes stormwater runoff management and the mitigation of the urban heat island effect.  Not only does GraniteCrete perfectly address these issues, it’s earth-tone color beautifully complements the amphitheater and the entrance to the facility where it was installed.

The CIAC demonstrates sustainable excellence, while offering the top culinary education and experience for the community.

At Hirondelle House, GraniteCrete Helps Create a Terrific Terrace

Located along the Silverado Trail, Clos du Val Winery has been producing award-winning, estate-grown wine for nearly fifty years.  To accomplish this, the winery has three vineyards: State Line Vineyard and Riverbend Vineyard located in Yountville, and Hirondelle Vineyard nestled in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.

In addition to creating delectable wines, Clos du Val seeks to create lasting connections—“between our customers, our vineyards, our wines, our people and our history.”  There’s no better place to forge such connections than over a tasting at the Hirondelle House.

One of the three outdoor terraces at Hirondelle House.
Image property of⁠—and courtesy of⁠—Clos du Val Winery.

Opened in 2018, the Hirondelle House is a remarkably beautiful and contemporary tasting room.  Its design allows visitors to connect with the “estate vineyards, the historic winery and legendary wines.”  For those wanting to enjoy their wine al fresco, Clos du Val offers the Hirondelle House Members’ Terraces.  These three terraces have ample seating to accommodate small and large groups, a fire pit, and shade-providing trees.  When additional shade is needed, outdoor umbrellas are available.

These umbrellas are attached to rolling bases with very small wheels.  When the terraces were being constructed, Clos du Val quickly realized it was difficult to roll these umbrellas across the decomposed granite originally installed as the paving surface.  Despite having a stabilizer mixed in, the decomposed granite simply wasn’t sturdy enough; the stabilizer also failed to allow water to permeate, causing water to bead on the surface.

To easily correct these issues, a switch to GraniteCrete was suggested by Tom Price of Price Landscape Surfaces.  As a firm and ADA-compliant paving material, GraniteCrete has proven to be an excellent surface that is “working perfectly.”

A Quick Guide to LEED Certification

Since its creation in 1998, LEED has grown in popularity.  Many people have heard the term.  So, what is it exactly? Here’s a quick guide.

The LEED award on the outside of the MEarth building next to Carmel Middle School.  GraniteCrete paving material was used to create the patio in front of the building.

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally-recognized building certification system sponsored by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).  It “provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.”

How does LEED certification work?

The LEED certification program looks at building design and construction, as well as environmental factors such as responsible land use.  Points are awarded based on areas such as energy efficiency, water usage, air quality, and choice of building materials.

There are four levels of LEED certification, based on the total points earned:

How are points earned?

When a project is being developed, those involved in the process can choose relevant LEED certification credits to earn points.  The points system starts broad and funnels down to specific details:

  • Rating Systems categorize the building project
  • Credit Categories target systems in the building
  • Credits are the actual strategies to improve the building
  • Points are earned when a strategy is correctly implemented

The more points that are earned, the more sustainable the building is and the higher the certification.

How can LEED influence architects and contractors?

From the very beginning, those involved in the development and building process should carefully consider the design and building materials involved.  Some areas to consider are:

  • Use of regional and renewable materials
  • Construction waste management
  • Indoor air quality during construction

What are key benefits to certification?

Buildings with LEED certification have a host of benefits.  These buildings are designed to be resource-efficient, energy-efficient, and cost-effective.  They also support the local economy, have a greater resale value, and represent a commitment to sustainability.  A company involved in creating a LEED-certified building establishes itself as a company striving to shape the world into a greener place.

How can GraniteCrete contribute to a building’s LEED certification?

When GraniteCrete is used for walkways, patios, and small parking lots on a building project, it can contribute to earning points under the following LEED credits:

Sustainable Sites

Materials & Resources

  • Credit: Construction and Demolition Waste Management
  • Credit: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction
  • Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations

What are Provision C.3 Requirements, and How Can GraniteCrete Help?

Our thriving communities increase the number of buildings, roadways, and sidewalks – as well as concerns about stormwater management. The pressure is increasing for builders to choose low-impact development solutions, and many communities are implementing solutions that comply with Provision C.3 requirements.

What is Provision C.3?

Provision C.3 is a requirement for new building developments (and redevelopments) to meet stormwater design compliance requirements.  Among others, requirements that must be met include:

  • Minimize impermeability and reduce runoff
  • Control runoff rates and durations, if required
  • Provide for operation and maintenance of stormwater facilities

It also requires that, when possible, permeable surfaces should be used instead of traditional paving solutions so runoff can filter through to the underlying soil.  Runoff can carry pollutants that reduce water quality and negatively affect the beneficial uses of our waters.  Provision C.3 requirements seek to protect our water sources from these issues.

Getting Started

When planning new developments or redevelopments, a stormwater control plan must be created that illustrates how the project will implement stormwater controls into the project’s design and landscaping.  The plan should also show the size and location of both permeable and impermeable surfaces, proposed stormwater facilities, and detailed information of how runoff will flow from the impermeable surfaces to the stormwater facilities.

It is recommended by Provision C.3 that to comply with these requirements, landscape architects look toward Low Impact Development (LID).  LID is an approach that seeks to control stormwater at the source and mimic the development site’s natural hydrology; it encourages architects to implement designs that will capture stormwater runoff and use it for local landscape irrigation and groundwater recharge.  This can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of rain gardens, native plants, and by installing permeable pavement.

A Natural Paving Solution

An excellent permeable pavement solution that is often overlooked is permanent decomposed granite that does not contain a resin or polymer base, such as GraniteCrete.

GraniteCrete meets Provision C.3 requirements as a stand-alone product.  It is a permanent, permeable, and environmentally-friendly paving solution.  It contains no polymers or resins, meaning it will not cause any unnatural substances to leach into the soil or groundwater over time.  It also has the durability and near-strength of traditional paving materials like concrete.

Not only is it an ideal paving solution to meet Provision C.3 requirements but best of all, GraniteCrete contributes two LEED credits when it comes to stormwater design:

  • Credit 6.1 – Stormwater Design – Quantity Control (1 point) GraniteCrete helps decrease the amount of stormwater runoff on a site
  • Credit 6.2 – Stormwater Design – Quality Control (1 point) GraniteCrete helps reduce water pollution by increasing on-site filtration.

Are you interested in using GraniteCrete on your next project? Contact us to get started!

Permeable Paving and Stormwater Management

As California moves into the heart of winter and experiences the increased rainfall that accompanies it, the importance of using a permeable solution for paved surfaces becomes increasingly apparent.

Traditional, impermeable surfaces⁠—such as concrete or asphalt⁠—have played a huge role in the decline of watershed integrity in urban and urbanizing areas.  These surfaces can affect water quality, affect streamflow, and even increase the likelihood of flooding by causing:

  • Higher discharges
  • More bank erosion
  • Increased sediment transportation
  • Increased pollutant loads to streams
  • Reduced groundwater recharge

Thankfully, alternative paving solutions exist that combat these issues.  Permeable pavement has a high porosity that allows rainfall to pass through it to the ground below, and comes with both environmental and financial benefits.

Benefits of Permeable Paving

Environmental benefits include:

  • Reduces storm water runoff rate and volume
  • Reduces water pollution by trapping pollutants in the pavement
  • Replenishes groundwater, which can in turn be used by plants surrounding the pavement
  • Reduces surface temperatures since permeable pavement doesn’t produce a “heat island”

Financial benefits include:

Additional Benefits

The benefits of permeable pavement are undeniable.  One study found that after one year’s use of four permeable pavement areas there was no measurable surface runoff from these areas. After returning to the site after an additional five years, all four permeable pavement systems showed no major signs of wear or clogging. Virtually all rainwater continued to infiltrate through every permeable pavement system, with little or no surface runoff.

Permeable Paving Options

A popular paving option is decomposed granite.  However, there are a few different types of decomposed granite solutions out there.  It’s important to know the differences between each, so one can choose the right option for the right environment.

Loose, decomposed granite is the least-expensive option, as it’s simply loose granite with no binders or additives.  While it has excellent drainage and the initial cost is low, loose granite can be costly to maintain since it’s affected by erosion and often needs to be filled in as it’s washed away or otherwise scattered from the initial installation site.  During wet periods, it is prone to becoming mushy and muddy, and can easily be tracked into homes, which may damage hardwood flooring.

Stabilized decomposed granite is comprised of a stabilizer mixed in with the granite aggregates.  There are a few different stabilizer options.

A stabilizer that is often used is a product made in India, called Psyllium husk Powder.  Once spread and compacted, it is similar in appearance to loose decomposed granite.  Over time, however, this product fails and replacing it can become costly since the stabilizer and the decomposed granite have to be mixed prior to being delivered to the installation site.

Another commonly used stabilizer is resin.  When mixed with decomposed granite, this stabilizer creates a firm surface that’s stronger than loose decomposed granite.  The primary downsides to decomposed granite stabilized with resin is that it discolors over time—meaning it lacks aesthetic appeal—and it is also not permeable.  The lack of permeability is a major issue, particularly if one is trying to meet the Provision C.3 requirements.  We will go into more depth about the Stormwater provision C.3 requirements in our February newsletter.

Decomposed granite can also be stabilized with a polymer base.  While this can be appealing to those looking for an option similar to loose decomposed granite, it fails in time allowing the decomposed granite to be tracked away from the installation location and into buildings.  The major downsides to this option is that it is not permeable, fails over time, has no color options, and has temperature requirements for installation that can delay or impact installation times.

This cross-section shows GraniteCrete™ on a lift of Class II permeable base rock.

Decomposed granite stabilized with GraniteCrete Admixture has the look and feel of a crushed organic surface, with multiple surface finish options: loose, smooth, and coarse. It requires little to no maintenance, does not fail over time, and has excellent erosion control.  It is also permeable, allowing water to easily pass through; since it does not contain any oils, resins, polymers, or enzymes, it will not cause water pollution.

GraniteCrete has been approved and accepted as a 100% permeable product by Monterey County.  As noted by the County in their determination: “This determination exceeds the minimum 40% pervious surface requirement established by Monterey County and has been confirmed by an independent testing laboratory. The important fact in determining GraniteCrete™ as a permeable surface is that the entire surface of the product infiltrates water. It provides 100% ‘pass through’ regardless of whether it is used as a 3″ lift for pedestrian traffic or a 4” lift for commercial and light vehicular applications.”

In many ways, GraniteCrete is the superior decomposed granite paving option.  Interested in learning more about how GraniteCrete™ can improve your next landscaping project?  Contact a representative.  We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Happy Holidays from GraniteCrete!

This past year has been an exciting time at GraniteCrete!  Thank you to all of the architects, installers, retailers, and customers who have made this a great year for us. As it winds down and we turn our sights toward the year to come, we’d like to share a few highlights from 2019.

The entrance to Dust Bowl Brewing Co Taproom in Monterey with GraniteCrete patio.
Our new color, Carmel Coast.
  • Caltrans has approved GraniteCrete for use as a paving material. Projects have been identified in a few of the districts, and we are working with those districts on moving forward with those projects.
  • We added several new retailers and pre-mix facilities, including our first in Southern California!
  • We have partnered with Bauman Landscape & Construction and Bay Area Mix to offer the rental of volumetric concrete trucks for on-site mixing at large installations of GraniteCrete in Northern California.
  • We joined the California Landscape Contractors Association Central Coast chapter.
  • We added a new color to our line-up: Carmel Coast.  So far, this color has been used at private residences and at the new Dust Bowl Brewing Company Tap Depot in Monterey, CA.
  • We attended the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Conference for the first time this year!
  • Sales of GraniteCrete grew by 20% over 2018, while the pipeline grew by over 175%.

Thank you for including GraniteCrete in your projects, and thank you for supporting us.  

We wish everyone and their families a happy, safe, and wonderful Holiday Season.  We look forward to 2020, and wish a Happy New Year to all!  

Warmest Regards,

Geoff Smith
David Ventura
Brad Barbeau
Libby Hanson
Anjika Grinager

How to Defeat Gophers Once and For All

The mere mention of “gophers” is often enough to incite a distinct type of irritation in homeowners throughout California.  With five species inhabiting the Golden State, it’s likely you’ve encountered at least one, and understand this hatred.

Gopher mounds in a yard.
An example of a gopher-infested yard.

Gophers gravitate toward soil that’s moist and soft enough for them to tunnel through.  Once they’ve breached the surface, they prove themselves to be impressive diggers.  They create extensive burrows that allow them to reach the roots of grass, flower bulbs, and other shrubbery that they happily munch on.

These activities not only create unsightly holes and dirt mounds that pose a walking hazard, they weaken the integrity of a yard.  Plus, gophers carry diseases that can be passed on during one of their trips above ground.

How Can You Get Rid of These Pests?
There are various tips and tricks one can use to battle gophers and encourage them to move on, at least temporarily.  Or, there is the more-permanent solution (win the battle and the war, if you will) of replacing the gopher-friendly area with an impenetrable surface.

Our favorite of all possible options is GraniteCrete.  Naturally rodent-resistant, it uses decomposed granite to achieve a firm and durable surface, while maintaining the porosity found in nature.  Best of all, it’s available in earth-tone colors that beautifully blend in and complement surrounding wildlife.  Choosing GraniteCrete means you don’t have to choose between alleviating pest-related concerns, or putting the environment first.  

Is it Hot Out Here, or is it Just the Urban Heat Island Effect?

Sustainable building practices improve the health and safety of our planet.  As the world’s population grows⁠ and cities expand⁠, these practices become even more important as the risk of harmful man-made situations⁠—such as urban heat islands⁠—increase.

Image courtesy of Green Ribbon.

What is an Urban Heat Island?

An urban heat island occurs in cities when the natural landscape is replaced by pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat.  As a result, the materials create a hotter environment than rural areas. Temperatures can range from one to three degrees hotter during the day, and from three to seven degrees hotter at night!  This “heat island effect” leads to increased energy costs, air pollution levels, and heat-related illnesses.

These temperatures are influenced by the materials used, as each has an associated Solar Reflectance Index value.

What is a Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) Value?

A material’s SRI value is a way to measure its ability to stay cool by reflecting⁠—rather than absorbing—solar heat.  It’s measured on a scale from 0 to 100; a standard black surface has a SRI of 0 and a standard white surface has a SRI of 100.  The higher a material’s SRI, the lower its contribution to the heat island effect.


Under the United States Green Building Council, a building material must have a SRI value of 29 or higher to qualify for a LEED credit.

What Are Other Ways to Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect?

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a few strategies for reducing the urban heat island effect.  One strategy is using paving materials that tend to remain cooler than conventional pavements, such as permeable ones.  Permeable paving materials are generally lighter in color, are able to absorb and filter water, and have open pores—all features that contribute toward a cooler paving material. Permeable paving materials are also an excellent solution because they are not a one-trick pony.  They can also lower tire noise, provide better traction, and aid stormwater management.

There are a handful of permeable paving options available, including our personal favorite: GraniteCrete.  GraniteCrete has long been a champion for the environment, and we are proud to offer a product that puts it—and sustainability—first.

The Future of Landscaping is Stormwater Management

All too often, rainy weather generates more water than a landscape can handle.  If this water is not managed properly, it leads to several issues. These can be minor annoyances such as puddles, or more serious issues such as:

  • Reduced groundwater recharge
  • High rates of runoff and erosion
  • An increased likelihood of natural disasters (e.g. flooding or mudslides)

These issues are compounded by the use of non-porous paving materials, such as concrete and asphalt.  To compensate for the lack of permeability, additional landscaping element⁠s⁠—such as bioswales⁠—are sometimes incorporated into a landscape design.

What’s a Bioswale?

A bioswale is a landscaping feature used to manage stormwater runoff by slowing, collecting, filtering, and infiltrating stormwater.  They are often seen alongside large parking lots, business parks, and industrial areas. Similar to a storm gutter in function, a bioswale normally involves the use of vegetation to reduce the speed of the runoff for maximum effectiveness.

At first glance, a bioswale seems like an ideal way to manage stormwater.  However, it’s simply a Band-Aid that has its own host of issues.

As an additional element added to a design, bioswales drive up a landscape’s installation costs.  Bioswales also require regular maintenance. If a bioswale is not properly taken care of, there’s a risk that water will not properly drain; a lack of drainage can allow pollutants water to pool on the surface long enough to allow pesky insects to breed.  A bioswale must be inspected on a regular basis to ensure adequate vegetation is maintained, there are no blockages, and that any sediment that has built up is adequately removed.

The Bottom Line

There’s a better solution for stormwater management: permeable pavement.  Permeable pavement allows rainwater to percolate directly into the ground – reducing runoff and all of its associated issues and eliminating the need for a bioswale or similar landscaping elements.  Permeable pavement is also accompanied by environmental and financial benefits.

Environmental benefits include:

  • Reduces stormwater runoff rate and volume
  • Reduces water pollution by trapping pollutants in the pavement
  • Replenishes groundwater, which can, in turn, be used by plants surrounding the pavement

Financial benefits include:

  • Reduces the need for conventional drainage features, such as curbs and gutters
  • Lower installation costs, since underground piping and storm drains are not needed
  • Reduced water-usage costs, since surrounding plants can benefit from the replenished groundwater

There are many different permeable paving options available, and choosing the right one may require a little more research than choosing a traditional paving option, but it’s well worth it.  We explore the different options more in-depth here.

GraniteCrete – Your Stormwater Management Solution

GraniteCrete is a specialized permeable paving product; use of GraniteCrete eliminates the need for additional landscaping elements like a bioswale.  Mixed with decomposed granite, it has a solid and durable surface with the near-strength of concrete. It contains no polymers, oils, or resins; so, no toxic materials will leach into the ground as water passes through.  GraniteCrete will stand up to both foot traffic and light vehicular traffic, making it appropriate for patios, driveways, sidewalks – and more!

The Future in Sustainability

“Sustainability” has become something of a buzzword these days.  But at MEarth—an “environmental education non-profit”—located at the Hilton Bialek Habitat in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, sustainability is much more than a buzzword.  Sustainability is a core value that anchors its daily operations and existence.  

The Green Classroom and kitchen at MEarth, with GraniteCrete patio.

MEarth Champions Sustainability
MEarth is an innovative learning environment that educates students from the surrounding school districts about environmental stewardship and ecoliteracy: how their personal choices directly impact the planet.

It accomplishes these goals through programs that incorporate its Green Classroom and kitchen, a LEED-certified building that “allows students to experience how a building can be used to help sustain the environment.”

The Green Classroom Design
Designed by Arkin Tilt Architects, the Green Classroom features many eco-friendly design elements – such as solar panels on the roof, a passive solar design, a butterfly cupola, and a rainwater catchment system.

Its design plays a huge part in the building’s LEED status, which is bolstered by the use of GraniteCrete paving material to create the beautiful, spacious patio in front of it.  The patio houses picnic tables with umbrellas where students can relax and socialize, and plenty of open space for occasional community events.

As a stand-alone product, GraniteCrete is able to contribute 13 points to a building’s LEED status across three categories.  We at GraniteCrete are proud that our environmentally-friendly paving material was chosen to contribute to MEarth’s vision of sustainability.