First Solar’s new 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Lake Township, Ohio, was completed in just 12 months from groundbreaking to owner equipment setting.  The $400 million production facility produces First Solar’s advanced technology Series 6 thin film photovoltaic (PV) module and has tripled the company’s U.S. capacity.

The Rudolph Libbe Group served as design/build contractor, with its own tradespeople self-performing much of the construction – sitework, utilities, concrete, masonry, plumbing, office HVAC, electrical, process mechanical, mechanical insulation and equipment setting.

Rudolph Libbe Properties SiteLine™ team led the confidential site selection process, providing options, research and rcommendations to the customer, who ultimately selected the 183-acre site in Lake Township.

First Solar selected the design/build project delivery method to meet the fast-track schedule. Design began in March 2018 before the property purchase was final and was completed in late April. The company broke ground as planned in May 2018, only 43 days after the project was publicly announced.

Long before ground was broken, however, the building was constructed and the vast amounts of process equipment installed in a computer model, coordinated by Rudolph Libbe Group’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) team to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

To meet the aggressive schedule, the massive building was enclosed in sections with the team digging foundations, placing concrete, installing utilities, and erecting precast steel and panels simultaneously, through a severe winter and wet spring.  The team used load-bearing precast walls to reduce the amount of perimeter steel and an early suppression fast response (ESFR) sprinkler system which eliminated the requirement for heat/smoke vents and draft curtains.

GEM Inc. fabrication shop welders built uni-strut utility stands in-house, which plumbers then assembled to save field work. Field workers only had to tilt them up, anchor them to the ground, and make the tie-in.

Total number of pieces of equipment moved by GEM Inc. millwrights was 855 or 920 trucks of equipment unloaded. unloaded, uncrated and rough set.  Equipment manufacturers from multiple countries completed the final setting.

Electricians from GEM Inc. managed the plant’s138kV/(2) 30 MVA substation as a design/build project including site work, foundation and equipment design.

GEM Inc.’s mechanical group designed systems and installed all elements within the plant’s wastewater and pure water treatment plants.

The project was completed on time and safely, with minimal incidents and zero lost-time for the entire project – 418,051 man-hours worked, vast amounts of materials and thousands of deliveries.

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