The Forest River Community of Fordville, ND, located less than 50 miles from Manitoba, has watched the Canadian swine industry boom in the last five years. What intrigued the livestock managers of Forest River most about the growth of the swine operations up north was their ability to get buildings built fast — with quality that will last.

Paul Maendel, general manager of the progressive Hutterite community of Forest River, and swine managers Wayne and Daniel Maendel began viewing swine facilities in Alberta and talking with dealer Ed Dornn of Excel Construction in Manitoba. And that connection led them to a Woodbridge, Ontario, company called Royal Building Systems (RBS).

Low-maintenance walls

In 1970, RBS began manufacturing rigid extruded polymer components that serve as the finished formwork for a variety of concrete walls, including bearing, nonbearing, retaining and foundation walls, initially sold for use in homes, medical centers, apartment buildings and schools.

“In the mid-1990s we realized this technology had a good fit into the agricultural market and have since built several hundred swine facilities in Canada and the northern U.S.,” explains Chris Jones, agricultural specialist for RBS. “We've built everything — from farrowing barns to wean-to-finish to farrow-to-finish facilities.”

What's driving this growth, according to Jones, is the quick and simple assembly of durable walls that are relatively maintenance-free. “The vinyl resin we use can withstand any abuse, whether it's from animals, chemical cleaners, urine or manure. Our walls are airtight, eliminating rodent problems and the damage and diseases they can cause. Plus we offer forms with injected insulation that have R-values of R22 for cold climates to R37 for hot climates,” he says.

Initial costs higher

After many years of repairing and painting its existing wood-framed swine facility, the Forest River Community knew it needed a more durable and longer-lasting facility, especially because it was shifting from a small grow-finish swine operation to an 800-sow unit initially, followed by a grow-finish facility.

“Due to the large initial cost, we wanted to get the building up and running quickly and efficiently to initiate cash flow earlier,” says Daniel Maendel, who helps run the new swine facility. “With this wall system, we were able to complete our entire wall setup for this 127- × 284-ft. building in four days, followed by two days to fill them with concrete. If we had framed this with wood, that part of the construction process would have taken at least three weeks.”

Maendel is quick to admit that the initial cost for RBS walls is probably 10 to 20% higher than the cost of wood walls. “But when we factored in a 50% savings in labor, plus longer-term maintenance savings and many other variables, we figured we'd save 20% over the cost of the wood in the long run,” he says. The 800-sow unit, completely equipped, cost $800,000, or $1,000/sow, and the community supplied most of the labor.

Easy installation

One such time-saver was the simple and quick method for attaching sections of wall together. Maendel says it took six people working three days to slide the forms together into 8-ft.-wide sections. Then the sections were lifted with a small crane and slid from the top down to adjoin the standing wall section. “Another time-saver was the ease of how doors and windows were quickly installed due to the integrated adjustable jambs,” Maendel adds.

To build this structure, Forest River used the 6-in. concrete plus 2-in. insulation forms for the outer walls, 6-in. concrete forms for interior hallways and load-bearing walls, and 4-in. concrete forms for all other interior walls. Once all the walls were up and before the concrete was poured to fill the walls, the electrical channels were slid into the framework as needed to wire the entire building. “Then we just had to router out the vinyl along that channel in walls where we needed a switch or outlet, pop a box in and connect the wires,” Maendel says. Upon completion of the finished walls, a standard wood rafter roof was installed.

When asked if they would have done anything differently, now that the hogs are in the building and it's up to capacity, Maendel says no, not really. “We've even let the walls go three weeks without cleaning the manure — as a test — and a simple once-over with a pressure washer had them looking nice and clean,” he says.

For more information about the wall system, visit the Royal Building Systems Web site at www.rbsdirect.com or call toll-free 877/747-9255. For more information about the Forest River Community building and swine operation, contact Paul Maendel at 701/865-4112 or frc@polarcomm.com.