Fit And Fancy

For good cause, precast producer ThermalShell Technologies, Inc. of Sycamore, Ill., was signed on by Cambridge Homes Illinois’ largest home builder and

Martha Blastow

For good cause, precast producer ThermalShell Technologies, Inc. of Sycamore, Ill., was signed on by Cambridge Homes Û Illinois’ largest home builder and the recipient of various tributes, including the National Award for Construction Excellence from the National Association of Home Builders Û to construct clubhouses for its residential developments. The first such project, 32,000-sq.-ft. Cambridge Lakes Community Center in Pingree Grove, Ill., was completed in 4_ months late last year. Housing a gymnasium, fitness center, classrooms and meeting rooms, the facility also features extensive exterior detailing that includes brick fa¡ades and vertical soldier course reveals, plus horizontal band reveals of varying depth.

ThermalShell’s three-component wall panel system Û comprising a 2-in.-thick, 5,500-psi concrete exterior and a prefinished, 26-gauge corrugated steel interior panel enclosing a 4-in.-thick, polyurethane foam middle layer Û was selected by the builder for its insulating properties and finished interiors contributing to ease of construction. In addition to an R-30 insulation value, the lightweight panels provided interior surfaces requiring no further treatment for the gym and mere drywall in classrooms and recreation areas. For an especially rigid roof, requiring half the normal number of joists, steel sandwich panels (constructed of two high-rib 26-gauge sheets surrounding 3_ inches of polyurethane insulation) were installed and finished with a triple-seal system to prevent leaks.

Moreover, the precast exterior offered versatility with economy. A brick liner used in fabricating the wall panels, as well as skillful color application, created a genuine brick appearance. For the reveals, custom-made components were attached to the casting table to form accenting elements. A glass-smooth finish, furthermore, was achieved to avoid inconsistencies in the finish.

Besides meeting aesthetic requirements, the panels were tailored to satisfy seismic and wind load demands. Incorporating rebar and wire mesh for structural reinforcement, the walls provide a load-bearing capacity beyond that of architectural cladding.

ThermalShell’s Cambridge Lakes contract comprised 175 wall panels totalling 24,783 sq. ft., including 68 one-of-a-kind units; 144 roof panels covering 32,000 sq. ft., with 11 variances; and, 40 decorative spandrels. The wall panels were completed in 52 days, while 28 days were dedicated to roof panel production.

Erection time for the walls and roof was one month. Using a 9,000-lb.-rated, JLG 944E-42 skid steer for roof and wall placement significantly reduced the cost of installation. Lightweight components, including 31-ft. 6-in. to 9-ft. 9-in. wall panels and 40-ft. 6-in. to 8-ft. 10-in. roofing units, eliminated the need for a large crane and the attendant expense.

According to ThermalShell Vice President of Production Andy Peterson, completing the Cambridge project pushed the operation to its limits, preparing the company for future challenges. The small factory dictated painting [panels] outside in the mid-summer sun, he reports, and the sizeable volume of product to be stored required thorough logistical planning.

Growing demand for the proprietary panels has prompted ThermalShell President John Biesiadecki to expand to new facilities serving both the Midwest (from Illinois) and the Southwest (from Arizona). The process was set in motion when an early-March meeting enabled company officers to present to engineers of Germany’s Vollert/Weckenmann their equipment requirements for a semi-automated plant design. Columbus, Ohio-based Spillman Co., Vollert/Weckenmann’s North American representative, will handle the installation. The upgrade is going to drastically increase our productivity and ease of production, Peterson affirms.


To replicate the style of a 19th century barn once standing on the client’s property while providing 21st century amenities for the Silo Banquet Hall in Allegan, Mich., ThermalShell precast panel technology was selected for its high insulation value and architectural versatility. A liner simulating vertical cedar planks was used in casting the panels to mimic the fa¡ade of the original structure Û reportedly causing neighbors, after paint was applied, to exclaim at the speed of wood siding installation.

Project owner Dan Wagner, the third-generation proprietor of a heating and air conditioning company that services large commercial buildings, asserts that heating units in the 22,000-sq.-ft. banquet hall turn on less frequently Û even in the midst of a frigid Michigan winter Û due to the structure’s superior insulation. We spend more to heat our Naperville [Ill.] home than we do for the banquet hall, he tells ThermalShell President John Biesiadecki.