Monday, June 11, 2007

Vacaville Firm Launches Facility

Vacaville Firm Launches Facility
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

Jeanette Devries (left) and Pablo Alvarez of Solano Construction watch the production line that makes insulated roofing an construction material at All Weather Insulated Panel's new fabrication plant in Vacaville. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

Summer is almost here and many business owners are concerned about what their energy bills will look like in the coming months.

Those planning on constructing new commercial buildings can now turn to All Weather Insulated Panels, a new manufacturing facility in Vacaville that is helping change the way construction is done in the age of rising energy costs.

All Weather Insulated Panels, which kicked off production at its new facility on Wednesday, produces wall and roof components with insulation already integrated. That not only eliminates a couple of time-consuming construction steps - extra framing and separate insulation - but ends up being more efficient in keeping a building warm or cool.

Such building panels have been used for several years by companies with cold-storage facilities and even wineries. But recently, more and more traditional businesses are interested in better insulation for their buildings.

"In the last two or three years, because energy costs started to soar, that's when people said, 'OK, we really need to insulate this,' " said Bill Lowery, co-owner of All Weather Insulated Panels. "Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to build a building or you're a contractor, you'd say 'where can we save money?' Nobody cared because energy was cheap.

"We want to do it right," he added. "We don't just want to put a piece of tin on the roof and have it be 115 degrees in summer."

Companies concerned with being environmentally-friendly can also use the panels Lowery's company makes, since the materials used in the panels are recyclable.

The new manufacturing facility, located on Aldridge Road in Vacaville, is 100,000 square feet and filled with expensive equipment shipped from Italy. Lowery expects the new facility to start with 27 employees, and grow to about 60 employees once business gets going. Those workers will be paid an average of $10 to $15 an hour.

The facility is one of only eight of its kind in the country, and one of three in California. All Weather Insulated Panels will ship its products throughout the Western U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, and is expected to earn about $20 million annually, after two or three years.

The process of getting the company up and running took about a year, according to Lowery. He and his brother, Michael Lowery, owned a similar facility in Modesto a few years ago and later sold it to a European company.

While shopping around for a building to house their new company and large equipment, they met Lance Porter, owner of All Weather Architectural Aluminum. The three discussed the business venture, and got Porter interested in becoming an investor.

"Making things that are energy-efficient is what we need today," Porter said of the panels, and his decision to invest in the company. "It certainly is a product whose time has come."

Eventually, the Lowery brothers decided to adopt the All Weather name for their company.

Lowery foresees these insulated panels becoming more widely used as builders begin looking for ways to create more energy-efficient buildings. The problem now, he says, is that there aren't enough facilities manufacturing these panels.

"The only thing that keeps these products from being 60 or 70 percent of buildings is that there's not enough production in the U.S.," he said. "If there was (enough production), the product would immediately become far more popular."

Shelly Meron can be reached at

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