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New CGC Alberta wallboard factory to be its most sustainable

EcoSmart Panel product to cut GHGs, water; facility to be powered by solar farm

From left, Rick Christiaanse, CEO of Invest Alberta; Chris Griffin, CEO of USG; Steve Youngblut, general manager of CGC; and Amber Link, councillor of Wheatland County. (Courtesy CGC Inc.)

A CGC Inc. wallboard facility under construction near Carseland, Alta. is designed to be the company’s most sustainable to date in terms of materials, operations and its supply chain.

CGC’s third Canadian wallboard factory is to service the Western Canadian market. It will sit on 214 acres of land in Wheatland County, with the facility taking up 220,000 square feet. Announced in 2022, it is to be finished in early 2026.

Representing a $210-million investment, sustainability will be at the core of the facility. It is planned as a zero-waste facility that will manufacture CGC's EcoSmart Panels. The panels will be made using less carbon, energy and water compared to standard wallboard.

The facility is planned to run entirely on renewable electricity; the energy mix is still in the works.

Oakville, Ont.-headquartered CGC, formerly known as the Canadian Gypsum Company, produces and distributes gypsum wallboard used in residential and commercial buildings. It is a subsidiary of USG Corp., or United States Gypsum Corporation.

“The plant itself is going to be our most sustainable plant in our fleet network,” Chris Griffin, the CEO of Chicago-based USG, told Sustainable Biz Canada.

Greener gypsum wallboards

EcoSmart Panels are comprised entirely of recycled paper, dry faster and require 25 per cent less water to manufacture than standard wallboard. As a result, EcoSmart Panels have 25 per cent less embedded energy from the production stage and cut embodied carbon by 20 per cent, Griffin explained.

The carbon reduction figure will be improved over time, he added.

CGC is aiming to create a zero-waste facility that will reuse all production waste in its products so nothing goes to landfill. High-efficiency gas kilns will dry the wallboards and recover evaporated water. A technology from USG will transform gypsum into stucco with less embodied energy than the standard, and energy-efficient lighting will be present throughout the facility, the company adds.

Even the decision to situate the plant in Alberta has implications, Griffin said.

“From a supply chain perspective, we’re shipping these products a great distance. It’s not only bad for customer service, but it’s bad for the environment. You think about the embedded CO2 (carbon dioxide) in our products if we’re shipping them all the way from Eastern Canada. It’s a huge advantage to be right here close to the market.”

CGC is aiming to power the facility’s operations with a solar farm, a first for both companies. Griffin said the energy capacity or size has not yet been established, but the solar facility is expected to be operational on Day 1.

The effort to produce more sustainable wallboard comes as more pressure is put on the building and construction industry to reduce its environmental impact. The United Nations Environmental Programme attributes 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions to the sector.

USG committed to the Science Based Targets initiative in 2023 with the 2030 targets of cutting Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30 per cent and Scope 3 emissions by 15 per cent. Another 2030 target is to have zero manufacturing waste going to landfills.

The company has cut its energy use by 20 per cent from 2005 and 2020, and reduced landfill waste by 29 per cent between 2010 and 2020, according to its website.

Meeting demand for its products in Western Canada

Though he did not provide manufacturing data, Griffin said USG provides its products to retailers and distributors in the Americas such as Home Depot.

The Alberta wallboard factory is CGC’s third in Canada, after locations in Ontario and Quebec. It is designed to meet rising demand for construction products in Western Canada.

“Our customers for decades have been telling us they needed faster access to our products,” Griffin said. “Western Canada and Canada in general is continuing to have solid growth in the construction sector, specifically around housing. We see there is a long-term demand for our products, especially in Alberta.”

He also would not disclose anticipated production for the Alberta factory, but said it will be “enough to service the Western Canadian market.” Products will be sold in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Over 200 construction jobs and over 100 full-time positions will be created due to the facility, Griffin added.

Editor's note: CGC clarified the facility will not be 100 per cent powered by the solar farm.

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