An old adage suggests if you want something done right, do it yourself.  In today’s climate of global interconnectivity, the idea that an individual could even consider doing everything required to run a 21st century business successfully simply isn’t possible. However, the notion of looking internally to solve problems head-on remains a critical constant. At Badger State Fruit Processing, a Pittsville, Wis.-based family-owned business providing a unique combination of services to Wisconsin’s cranberry industry, growing from within has been more than a mantra—it’s a catalyst.

Badger State Fruit Processing’s roots trace back to the 1980s, when owner Wayne Gardner was a truck driver transporting produce for local cranberry growers and learning to recognize where the local resources were under developed. For Gardner, the greatest deficiency in Wisconsin’s early 1990s supply chain was a lack of sufficient cleaning, receiving and cold storage stations close to where the fruit was being grown. Because of cranberries’ short harvest season—from late September to October—essentially all of the fruit is ready at the same time. Therefore, the processing facilities struggled to keep up with demand.  In response, Gardner and his brother Tom, who had already started growing their own crop of cranberries on two 1.5-acre bogs, built their first cold storage facility in 1996, adding a vital link to the distribution chain between growers and processors.

Over the years, their enterprise has continued to grow. A second raw material cleaning/receiving station and warehouse was built in 2003, and in 2005, they completed the construction of a 78,750-square-foot juice processing facility. Today, Badger State Fruit Processing has the capacity to process 25 million pounds of finished product annually, and accounts for more than 2 million gallons of cranberry juice concentrate and 5 million gallons of single strength juice. Despite the tremendous company growth, Wayne Gardner still believes in self-reliance and has always been heavily involved in the actual design and construction efforts associated with the company’s infrastructure growth.

“Wayne has always had a clear knack for seeing the future,” says Mark Konrardy, plant manager. “He’s grown this business from a simple trucking operation to become the largest independent producer of cranberries in the United States, while also helping many other local farmers increase their capacities.”

Konrardy is responsible for overseeing the latest round of facility expansions at Badger State Fruit Processing. His experience stretches back to 1996 when he worked as an independent contractor, responsible for wiring the cold storage facilities as an electrician. In 2010, Konrardy joined the operations team to manage the facilities, and in 2012, he was tasked with leading a 186,250-square-foot plant expansion in a design-build delivery.

“I’ve been around construction all of my life,” says Konrardy. “So, this responsibility wasn’t unfamiliar territory. On a large project, it’s important to consider every variable and to make solid decisions related to cost, quality and long-term performance.”

In adding a massive cold storage facility to existing operations, one of the most important variables was how to meet demanding temperature-control requirements while minimizing the cost impact on operational expenses. He researched insulation options and developed an initial list of key quantifiable parameters grouped into three categories—performance, environmental impact and cost.

“All three factors are intertwined in terms of impact on long-term operations,” says Konrardy. “Our insulation needs weren’t just in the walls and roof, but included foundation perimeter and underslab applications as well, making this really more of a six-sided challenge. After much consideration, we decided that ACH Foam Technologies products were the best fit, and they came through on a variety of fronts.”

The product’s long-term insulating properties, measured in R-values, was one of two significant factors related to performance. Manufactured from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, ACH Technologies’ Foam-Control PLUS+ architectural insulation and Foam-Control roof insulation both provide a fully warrantied R-value that maintains its effectiveness for 50 years. While other types of insulations may claim higher initial R-values for their products, third-party testing shows that off-gassing occurs over time and reduces the products’ effectiveness. Specifically, polyisocyanurate manufacturers utilize long-term thermal resistance (LTTR), a weighted average R-value of their product over a designated period of time. 

In 2010, Mark Graham, associate executive director of technical services for the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Rosemont, Ill., confirmed that relying on LTTR values for long-term performance may be misleading to designers.

“Although the LTTR method of R-value determination and reporting may be appropriate for laboratory analysis, research comparison and procurement purposes, NRCA does not consider LTTR use to be appropriate for roof system design purposes when actual in-services R-value can be an important aspect of roof system performance,” adds Graham.

That’s why Badger State Fruit Processing selected ACH Foam Technologies’ expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation, which doesn’t suffer from off-gassing and retains the originally specified R-values over the entire life of the product, without change.

In fact, effective in January, the NRCA changed to its previous recommendation of R-5 per inch thickness in heating conditions and R-5.6 per inch thickness in cooling conditions to better streamline the specification process for roofing designers.

The second performance criterion was compressive strength. The underslab insulation was required to withstand the weight of the cold storage facility’s massive freezer units. The solution was Foam-Control PLUS+ 400, which has a compressive strength of 40 psi, enabling it to support the weight of the freezers without risk of structural collapse.

Environmentally, it was important to Badger State Fruit Processing to keep things as ecologically friendly as possible. After all, they make their living growing and harvesting a natural product and supporting a balanced environment. ACH Foam Technologies’ Foam-Control PLUS+ 250 is composed of up to 15% recycled content, said to be the highest amount of all rigid foam insulations, and the product itself is also recyclable. Perhaps more significantly, it’s not the reduced volume of construction material used, but rather the lifecycle energy savings that will make the biggest environmental difference.

“Insulation can be expensive, but the costs savings we are realizing include both near- and long-term benefits,” adds Konrardy. “With the non-degrading R-values of these products, the costs of maintaining the desired temperatures and the energy required to do so is substantially reduced. However, that’s not the only way ACH helped us save money on this project.”

Working closely with Pat Austin, ACH Foam Technologies’ architectural sales representative serving Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Badger State Fruit Processing’s design team developed an innovative layering system that met the R-value and compressive strength requirements yet still reduced overall construction costs.

“The trick was to meet the required R-value for the areas below the freezer units as cost effectively as possible,” adds Austin.

Six inches of insulation were required to achieve the target R-value, but the structural engineers revealed the design only required 2 inches of Foam-Control PLUS+ 400 at 40 psi. Engineers then selected a two-layer system combining 2 inches of Foam-Control PLUS+ 400 on top of a 4-inch layer of Foam-Control PLUS+ 250. By using two different densities of material, Austin estimates they were able to save the project more than $54,000 compared to the cost of a 6-inch layer of Foam-Control PLUS+ 400 exclusively, a savings of 13%.

In addition to the underslab application, the project also called for 1,975,000 broad feet of Foam-Control flat EPS roof insulation where R-Value considerations are just as important, but the compressive strength required is significantly reduced. In roofing applications, builders often point to the ease of installation and the long-term effectiveness of an insulation product that maintains the original R-value as distinguishing characteristics in the decision-making process.

When asked what the most important thing he wants owners, architects and contractors to know about EPS rigid foam insulation, Austin says answer is really quite simple.

“For every building challenge there is a solution, sometimes that solution is pretty simple and straight forward,” he adds. “In the case of building insulation, EPS is always a viable insulation solution, especially when care is taken to understand long-term thermal resistance and how that may degrade over time with certain rigid foam insulations.”

ACH Foam Technologies is headquartered in Westminster, Colo.