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The Natural Choice

Many months ago, as Cascades employees discussed how to accommodate a new converting line for the Lachute, Que., facility, ideas about how to honour the company's sustainable development values led to...

December 1, 2009  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Many months ago, as Cascades employees discussed how to accommodate a new converting line for the Lachute, Que., facility, ideas about how to honour the company’s sustainable development values led to the decision to build an addition that meets international standards for environmentally sustainable construction. From there, the idea to build with wood was the logical next step. Although wood is not a traditional material for industrial construction, the result is stunning: a warm, airy, welcoming space that reflects and embraces the surrounding community.

The 6800 m2 addition has an exposed wood frame, stained glass windows, and 37 skylights. It was designed to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specification for new construction, and is currently going through the LEED certification process.

Once the paperwork is complete, the new building in Lachute will be the first North American paper manufacturing facility to qualify for LEED-NC certification.


Serge Leroux, one of the project leaders at Lachute, says the challenges of building to LEED specifications arise not so much from the LEED standards themselves, but more from the choices that are made to keep the project in line with principles of conservation and environmentally sustainable construction.

At the time of the project, Leroux was the mill manager at Lachute. He has since been promoted to general manager of Cascades’ away-from-home product lines in Canada.

“There was a lot of input from [Cascades president and CEO] Alain Lemaire and the Lachute employees during the whole project,” says Leroux. Lemaire was strong supporter of the idea to build with wood. From the mill employees came the idea to use the stained glass windows and stone faade recovered from a local church and to create a public park alongside the building.

Stone, Steel, And Now Wood

As planning for the production upgrade began, it quickly became evident that the new machinery, because of its height and space requirements, would need an addition to the plant. The mill has been expanded many times since its beginnings as the J.C. Wilson paper mill in 1880, but the current structure still retains some of the original stone walls.

The dramatic beauty of the new building almost outshines the fact that this expansion also represents a major increase in production, and is one of the few investments in new technology this sector has seen in recent months.

The $15-million expansion project was eligible for a loan of $3.1 million from Investissement Qubec and financial assistance of $379,000 from Emploi-Qubec.

The centerpiece of the expansion is a 790C converting line from Fabio Perini. It will increase the facility’s capacity by 50%, to 3.3 million cases of hand towels and bath tissue per year. With the added capacity, several smaller converting lines at the plant will be withdrawn from use, and one line has been repurposed. Both the hand towels and bath tissue are produced from 100% recycled fibre.

Decisions guided by values

“It was the choices we made that sometimes made the project more challenging,” recalls Leroux. In making decisions about heating, lighting, and water management, the options can be limited if you choose to be guided by principles of sustainable development, he explains. In the end, Cascades chose to heat the new building using excess heat from the paper machine elsewhere in the plant, and rain water is guided to a pond in the public park on the grounds, rather than burdening the city’s sewer system.

The addition has gained many favour-able responses, both from employees and members of the community.

“Choosing to use wood for the construction gives the building a distinctive look. It’s not like the typical dim, dirty, old plant,” says Leroux. “Using the stained glass from a local church, and developing a park area — that gives back to the community.”

He admits that the project team did aim for maximum visual appeal. As the structure developed and the beauty of the exposed wood ceiling and the massive beams became apparent, he says they decided to put the windows lower in the outside wall so that the interior would be visible to all, not just those who work at the plant.

Other ecologically-sensitive design elements are:

• The roof is white to reduce the heat island effect by reflecting rather than absorbing solar heat.

• A 350-m3 tank manages rainwater from the roof and loading dock, and discharges it to the water table rather than the public sewage system.

• The new building uses 40% less potable water, thanks to low-flow sanitary facilities.

• High-efficiency lighting fixtures reduce energy consumption by 38%, and movement and light detectors regulate the lighting according to the amount of natural light available from the skylights.

“Obtaining this certification positions Cascades in front of other North American companies in its sector,” declares Alain Lemaire, president and CEO of Cascades. “We can look at this building and be proud.”

Cascades employees should be proud. This new building puts Cascades’ commitment to sustainable development front and centre, for all to appreciate.

(Cascades will offer tours of the new facility, on request.)

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