The opening of Sofidel America’s new, 1.7 million square-foot manufacturing plant in Circleville, Ohio marks a major milestone for the Italian-based company’s growth in the United States. At 280 acres and nearly a mile in length, the production facility is the nation’s first greenfield paper plant and showcases a new level of technological advancement, energy efficiency and sustainability—thanks to a high-performance building envelope featuring well over 500,000 square feet of insulated metal panels.
As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of paper products for hygienic and domestic use, Sofidel owns subsidiaries in 13 countries worldwide. The $400 million Circleville plant is the company’s largest investment to date, incorporating a paper mill, where pulp is transformed into paper; a converting plant that produces the finished product; and a state-of-the-art warehouse.
National engineering, architectural, and construction management firm Gray Construction was selected to design and build the new facility. Project Manager Luca Oliphant noted that the initial design, provided by an overseas engineering firm, relied heavily on precast concrete. He cites the product’s price point between the international and domestic markets as the key factor in transitioning to an insulated metal panel façade.
“Evidently, they do a lot of concrete work in their home country and the early design concepts called for that,” Oliphant said. “They arrived here and realized that concrete is more expensive than metal.”
Insulated metal panels provided the perfect balance of form and function for the Circleville plant.
“It has a lot to do with the interior environment of a paper mill,” Oliphant added. “It’s a very humid environment—precast performs well there and, ultimately, so do metal panels.”
The bulk of the plant’s high-performance building envelope relies on a mix of 2- and 4-inch Metl-Span CF Mesa insulated metal panels, offering exceptional thermal performance R-values of 14 and 30, respectively. Installed vertically, the lightly corrugated exterior profiles create long, even sightlines, adding to the plant’s modern aesthetic. All told, the facility’s showcases more than 300,000 square feet of CF Mesa insulated metal panels.
The team at Gray Construction also utilized a wealth of Metl-Span ThermalSafe fire-rated insulated metal panel to meet code requirements. Specified in the 6-inch thickness, the product’s mineral wool core achieves a two-hour fire rating for walls.
“There are several fire-rated walls throughout the plant,” Oliphant explained. “When a fire occurs in a paper plant, it’s vital to contain it in one building and not have it spread throughout what is a very large facility.”
In addition to performance and aesthetic considerations, insulated metal panels offered installation advantages to Gray Construction and IMP-installer South State Contractors. The project followed a rigorous construction schedule allotting just over two years to complete the massive paper plant.
[IMPs] go up a little quicker and there’s a lot less effort and coordination involved,” Oliphant said. “The ease of installation and the effect on our schedule was an important factor.”
The Sofidel Circleville, Ohio plant officially opened its doors in October 2018, though the facility kicked off limited production operations earlier in the year. According to Oliphant, the building owners were thrilled with the finished product—so thrilled, in fact, that preliminary plans for future expansion have already begun. And the concept for phase two also relies heavily on insulated metal panels as the product of choice.
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Completion Date: October 2018
Architect: Gray Construction, Lexington, KY
IMP Installer: South State Contractors, Oakland, KY
General Contractor: Gray Construction, Lexington, KY