Campus Life

Penn State alumni-owned distillery earns LEED Gold rating

Penn State alumni Paula Cipar and Kevin Lloyd are co-owners of Big Spring Spirits, one of the first distilleries to earn a LEED Gold rating. Credit: Alex Bush / Penn StateCreative Commons

From the eclectic fabric scraps covering the chairs to the sewer grate-turned-railing on the patio, from the bar made of salvaged Pennsylvania walnut to the recycled drains in the manufacturing space, Big Spring Spirits is a picture of sustainability. The Penn State alumni-owned distillery in Bellefonte has been recognized for its efforts with a coveted Gold rating from LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings system. The public is invited to a celebration at the distillery, located in the Pennsylvania Match Company complex, from 5:30 to7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16.

Big Spring Spirits, named for the literal “Big Spring” just outside its doors, was started in 2014 by Paula Cipar, an interior designer and Penn State architecture alumna, and Kevin Lloyd, a Penn State science alumnus and former co-owner of Exygen Research. They share an interest in spirits, a love for central Pennsylvania, and a desire to give back to their community through a business that supports the local economy through both ingredient sourcing and tourism.

Big Spring Spirits is the first distillery in Pennsylvania and only the third in the world to receive a Gold rating from LEED, considered the leading benchmark in green building. LEED standards guided the design and construction of the facility from the start, leading Cipar and Lloyd to comb junkyards, research how and where to salvage materials, and address how to make the MEP — mechanical, electrical, plumbing — environmentally friendly.

“Going for LEED certification was a commitment and big effort on the part of many,” said Cipar, who designed the distillery’s tasting room, using her own fabric scraps to adorn the chairs. With steel beams providing a stark contrast to the building’s nearly 100-year-old brick walls, Big Spring exudes a rustic warmth that attracts both local residents and visitors to sample its lineup of spirits. “It made sense to use old things in an old building, and that was also smart both financially and environmentally,” added Cipar.

Big Spring’s spirits are made with water from the source right outside its doors, not only because it’s convenient, but because it’s some of the best-tasting water you can find—Big Spring water was named Pennsylvania’s Best Tasting Water at the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association Conference. The distillery’s spirits contain 50 percent water, so the taste of that water is important.

Other “green” features include motion detector sinks and lights in the bathrooms, extensive use of natural light, and a location accessible by bus. The grains — corn, rye and wheat — used to make the spirits come from local farmers, and the leftover grain that results from the distilling process is given back to farmers for cattle feed. In addition to an extensive drink menu, the distillery also offers light food prepared in-house by chef Mark Johnson, using primarily local ingredients, as well as some selections from the nearby Blonde Bistro.

“LEED is part of everything we do,” said Lloyd. “It’s not just in the building design — it extends to our production area as well. We just feel like we have a responsibility to the environment.” The firm of Albert A. Drobka, Architect, engineering firm Michael L. Norris and Associates, and Karen Norris, a LEED certification professional from Green Collar Consulting, guided Cipar and Lloyd through the construction process and LEED application. The review process took 18 months.

“This community has been very receptive to our business, and we enjoy when people come in and recognize some of the elements that made Big Spring Spirits LEED-certified,” said Cipar. “We are proud to work daily in a LEED-certified building.”

For more information, including hours and a menu, visit

Last Updated March 04, 2016