Aerated Concrete Giant Celebrates U.S. Plant Relaunch

More than 350 invited guests joined Xella North America, Inc., in a ceremony, luncheon, and facility tour celebrating the opening of its first U.S. autoclaved

Steven Prokopy

More than 350 invited guests joined Xella North America, Inc., in a ceremony, luncheon, and facility tour celebrating the opening of its first U.S. autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) manufacturing facility in Adel, Ga. The May 23 open house included an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and key vendors demonstrating application techniques using AAC.

Upgraded in about six months for $20 million and located along Interstate 75, just north of Valdosta, Ga., the 100,000-sq.-ft. Adel plant provides production support for Xella International GmbH’s expansion into the United States construction market. The German-based company specializes in lightweight AAC block and panels for load-bearing and nonload-bearing applications in commercial and industrial projects.

Based in Atlanta, Xella Aircrete North America Inc. manufactures and markets pre-engineered AAC panels and blocks under the Hebel brand to be distributed throughout North America. The preformed components are credited with speeding the construction of hotels, schools, warehouses and other commercial and industrial structures. The products are also used for elevator shafts, site walls, DOT sound walls, and mine supports. The plant also will produce panels for sidings on single-family detached homes, a significant market for the company.

The plant’s first test products rolled off the line in early March, and the company says its order book for the year is already full, with two hotel contracts in place and an additional five Atlanta-area hotels being negotiated.

Our goal is to bring the fire-safety, acoustic, thermal and speed-of-construction benefits of AAC components to the North American construction industry, says Gãnter Schimscha, Xella International GmbH area director, who demonstrated the company’s commitment to the community and education by presenting a $2,500 check to the Cook County School System. He also announced the introduction of a summer internship program to begin this year for Cook County High School.

The Adel plant has the largest industrial autoclave in North America. Operating 24/7, it has a total production capacity of 250,000 cu. meters of AAC materials. The state-of-the-art facility processes natural raw materials into finished building products with no polluting waste or foul-smelling emissions. The Hebel process uses a mix of cement, extremely fine sand, lime, aluminum-based expanding agents, and water. High-temperature autoclaved curing yields a product that is about 80 percent air and one-fifth the weight of conventional concrete.

In addition to being relatively lightweight, construction systems made from AAC can withstand high wind pressures, offer thermal insulation, and meet noise-deadening requirements.

Xella Aircrete President & CEO for North America Sylvester Schmidt foresees a receptive market for Hebel-branded products. Quality, cost effectiveness and the highest fire safety rating in the industry are a winning combination for us, he says. I look forward to a bright future for AAC and for our company in the U.S.


Before Xella International purchased the Adel AAC plant late in 2006, the facility was operational from 1995 to 2005. Xella incorporated Hebel and another recently acquired AAC producer Û Contec Mexicana of Monterrey, Mexico Û as Xella North America. Tagged in April 2006, Contec Mexicana (now renamed under the Xella umbrella) operates a 300,000-cu.-meter facility, with 10 percent of its annual output shipping to Texas, where it has a sales office.

Based in Duisberg, Germany, Xella International operates in more than 30 countries, and cites a number one global position in AAC or aircrete (with its Hebel and Ytong brands) and calcium silicate (Silka) block. A division of the Haniel Group, it also produces gypsum fiberboard (Fermacell), fire production board (Aestuver), and mineral insulation board (Multopor). Through its Fels Group business, the company is the leading lime and limestone supplier in Europe.

Developed during the 1920s in Sweden as an alternative building material, AAC was created in response to a shortage of wood tied to forest decimation. Searching for the advantages of wood Û good thermal insulation, solid structure and workability Û but without the disadvantages Û decay, termite damage and combustibility Û Johan Axel Eriksson invented the product. In 1945, Josef Hebel created a method to customize blocks during the AAC production process, and it has since become a preferred building material in Europe and Asia.

Major U.S. and European clients incorporating Xella’s Hebel AAC products for their construction needs include Daimler-Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Dow Chemicals, Adidas, IKEA, Ford, Bridgestone Tire Co., Pfizer and Volkswagen.