The Coldest Freezer in the Country

Every project comes with its own set of considerations and unique challenges. Industrial projects in particular have high demands for first-class safety, quality and innovation. That is why it is so important to hire a general contractor you can trust. Someone that will ease the process in any way possible, while maintaining the strict schedules and budgets these projects often require.

When Tri-North partners with a customer, we work collaboratively with them to understand their circumstances and meet their unique challenges. A great example of this if when we were tasked with building the coldest walk-in-freezer in the United States by an industrial client. We answered the challenge like we’ve answered so many others: by putting our decades of expertise to work to find innovative solutions and create an overall successful project.

If you have an upcoming project contact the experts at Tri-North Builders. We’re ready to help in any way we can.


The Client

Headquartered in Denmark, this industrial client is a bio-based company with activities in food production, enzymes and other bioproducts as well as a wide variety of pharmaceutical grade excipients. Their mission is to deliver essential food and beverage innovation that enables healthy, safe and sustainable options. With locations across the nation, Tri-North stepped in as a design-build partner to help build their Madison, Wisconsin, facility.


Meeting Challenges with Innovative Solutions

Our client needed a freezer that would not only function as a storage facility for products that they sell, but also as a research facility for dairy cultures used in the making of cheese, yogurt, and probiotics. This meant a detailed and integrat­ed design process, followed by a challenging but rewarding build process with exacting standards.

The project team took almost two years for conceptualization and design of the project to ensure that the particular needs of our client were met. Tri-North Builders worked closely with Strand, Inc. and Dualtemps in order to design a freezer that could achieve and maintain the -76˚ F required by our industrial client, as well as to complete the design of the surround­ing building addition. Some of the challenges encountered and innovative solutions found by our team during design and construction of this 7,000 sq ft. freezer and 11,000 sq. ft. surrounding building addition include:

  1. Insulated Panels: Special insulated panels were required to keep the building at the required temperature of -76˚, during both summer and winter months in Wisconsin. After meeting with every panel manufacturer based in the United States, it became clear that none had a product that could meet the stringent requirements necessitated by the extremely cold freezer temperature. The team ultimately turned to a European panel manufacturer that had built a smaller facility for the same industrial client in Europe. The design team had to work closely with the European manu­facturer to get the 12” thick panels approved for us in the United States. This involved special testing of the panels to obtain the UL rating required. The mock-ups were sent to a lab in Texas to assure acceptance by local code of­ficials prior to final fabrication and installation of the panels.


  1. Airlocks & Vents: Once the panels were found, the team became concerned that the pressure of the warm air rushing into the freezer when entering would blow out the freezer panels. The design team ad­dressed these concerns with a number of innovative approaches. First, airlocks were installed at the entrance to the freezer, creating four separate rooms at increasingly lower temperatures, starting at ambient and progressing to 40˚, -5˚, and, finally, -76˚F. In addition to drastically reducing the pressure of warm air entering the freezer, the airlocks had the added benefit of controlling condensation and frost buildup. To further ad­dress the pressure concerns, the team designed and installed pressure equalizing vents for the final door from the -5˚ room to the freezer. The pressure vents had to be custom designed and manufactured since this application had never before been used in the United States. Fi­nally, a pressure differential device was designed and fabricated on site using PVC piping and silicone material.


  1. Safety & Sterilization: Cleanliness was essential to this project in order to preserve the cul­tures stored within the freezer. This required that the clean room where packaging is performed outside of the freezer remain sterile at all times. Cleaning of the shoes worn by anyone entering the clean room during construction was essential and the team met this goal by depressing the 2” mud slab just outside the clean room and shooting a liquid high compressive strength foam from each side of the door frame into the depression for workers to walk thru. Then mats were employed to eliminate contaminants. The clean room itself was designed for a steam wash down, cleaning, then fast drying in less than 10 minutes to avoid bacteria/mold growth where mois­ture may have been remaining.


  1. Fire Sprinkler System: Wisconsin requires that this type of struc­ture have fire protection (sprinklers) and normal fire alarms throughout the building, including in the freezer. The team quickly realized that there were no fire sprinkler heads or fire alarms de­signed to function at the temperatures found within the freezer. The team realized a new approach would be needed and worked together to adapt and install a SAFE system that detects changes in the air density and triggers a fire alarm.


  1. Thorough Testing: As mentioned earlier, once the freezer was running, our client could not afford to have it fail. As a result, thorough testing of the facility was required prior to occupancy and use for production. The freezer and clean room were commissioned over a two month process to ensure the temperature and humidity levels were maintained and pressures were balanced without compromising the integrity of the rooms. Testing showed that all walls and their seals were perfect thanks to the close and thorough work of the design and construc­tion teams. The facility has functioned as planned since completion.


Due to the complexity of the project’s design and function, close teamwork was required from start to finish. Tri-North Builders worked closely with the company’s staff from all over the world, and every member of the project team had a hands on approach to this innovative and groundbreaking project. The solutions the team came up with not only benefitted this particular industrial customer, but can now benefit other companies who may need similar innovations for their business.

Industrial projects require a general contractor you can trust. Tri-North not only has years of experience, but we are also built to travel – our four office locations across the US have allowed us to complete projects in every single state, giving us local and governmental know-how that can be crucial to maintaining a schedule on industrial projects like these.

Contact Tri-North Builders today to get started on your next project!

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