FRESH OUT OF THE KEG
Molson Coors builds on two centuries of history in Canada
by Julia Preston, Photography: Damien Ligiardi
In 2021, the Molson Coors Beverage Company completed construction on an integrated brewing and distribution centre in Longueuil, Quebec. The ultramodern production and distribution complex is one of the most significant investments in the company’s 235-year history, with a budget of $600 million.
At the centre of the new facility is a commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment. Molson Coors is aiming to have the plant LEED certified, one of the few industrial sites in Canada to earn the certification.
Insulated Metal Panels (IMPs) from Norbec are a key component of achieving Molson Coors’ sustainability targets. IMPs offer superior insulating properties, along with multiple profile and colour options.
The Molson Coors facility uses charcoal, white and red panels to delineate different sections of the massive building. The white tower faces the highway. Architects GKC designed a vertical charcoal “fin” to add visual interest to one side of the façade. Every six panels, a dark wedge, or flashing, was inserted into the panel joints, adding definition to the surface. On an adjacent wall, the fins shift to horizontal.
Norex is Norbec’s line of conventional insulated panels, which consist of two steel sheets cast with a liquid polyisocyanurate foam which forms the insulating core. For fire protection, Norbec offers its non-combustible Noroc panels, which have a rock fibre core.
For the Molson Coors project, Norbec developed a new eight-inch deep Noroc panel. The panels were installed between the packaging and brewing sections and meet three-hour fire resistance requirements.
“Developing such a panel required the adaptation of our assembly line in order to increase the line’s ability to handle very heavy panels,” says Alexandre Belisle, Director R & D and Technical Services with Norbec. Panels weigh between 34-39 kilograms per square metre (seven and eight pounds per square foot).
The panels had to be tested and certified in a short amount of time. In fact, certifications were obtained just in time for installation.
Installation of the panels was complicated by both their weight and the physical space they were located in.
The facility is part of Molson Coors’ transformation from one of the oldest brewers in Canada to a modern, progressive brewer.
“We needed to install two walls facing each other,” explains Johan Dubois, with panel installer Frimasco. “In the end we had less than 20 inches between the two walls… We had to fix the panels from inside the building because once we put one wall we were not able to put the other one and anchor it normally.”
Installation of the firewall also required a heavy crane with a long reach.
However, once the panels were in place, Frimasco’s work was not complete. Nearly 20 wall sections throughout the building had to be reopened to install the giant brewing silos and other equipment.
Openings were carefully planned from the construction outset with contractors Pomerleau and Alberici Constructors.
“That was hard to do because when we install we install it permanently,” explains Dubois. “We anchored the panels in a way that we would be able to open the wall later on and put it back without seeing any opening inside.”
An additional innovation developed specifically for this project was a new clamping system which increased anchoring capacities by nearly 30 per cent. The IMPs required the unique clamp due to the height of the building and spacing of the structural elements.
By building this clamp, Norbec is now able to address specific structural constraints that previously would have required modifications to the building structure. The installation process for the clamp is longer, due to its larger size. However, the additional cost for the clamp is minimal compared to the cost of modifying a steel structure.
“Participating in this type of major project is always stimulating,” says Belisle. “A building of a major Canadian company, made with products from home, we have something to be proud of.”
The facility is part of Molson Coors’ transformation from one of the oldest brewers in Canada to a modern, progressive brewer. The new plant is the most integrated and agile operation within the company. It services the local domestic market and is capable of producing beer and non-beer brands.
The state-of-the-art centre includes three high-production rate lines divided between bottles, cans and kegs. The can line has a maximum capacity of 2,100 cans per minute, while the bottle line is 1,000 units per minute. Annually the facility will produce approximately 2.5 million hectolitres.
For Frederic Landtmeters, president and CEO, Molson Coors Canada, this new development connects the company’s past to its future.
“We are proud of our heritage and of the fact that the memory of John Molson, the founder, will be preserved. John Molson demonstrated a remarkable blend of entrepreneurship and community spirit and it’s a great honour for our company to continue the work he initiated in 1786,” he said in a statement.
In an interview with CTV, Landtmeters said the new facility will allow the brewer to be more agile when it comes to beverage trends.
“There’s probably a component of changes that we’re not yet aware of today that are going to appear tomorrow, so from all perspectives, we want to be able to respond to those changes in trends if and when they happen… That’s one thing that is… at the heart of the design of this site.”