Foam Panels Used in Construction Create an Unexpected Boom — Schweiss Was Along for the Ride

Marty Kiehm stands beside two identical hangars, both of which used Schweiss Bifold Doors complete with composite foam panels

Marty Kiehm stands beside two identical hangars, both of which used Schweiss Bifold Doors complete with composite foam panels

Schweiss is no stranger to aviation work, we’ve crafted bifold and hydraulic aircraft hangar doors to fit a variety of needs. Find out how we custom built bifolding, commercial aviation hangar doors for Kiehm Construction by combining two innovative ideas.

Kiehm Construction

In 1980 Marty Kiehm, age 23, completed his first build, a 70’ x 100’ hangar with a 48’ bifold door, located at the Delavan, MN airport. He was not yet a licensed pilot but had aviation in his genes as his dad was an aerial applicator. Pilot lingo was a normal part of the family’s day-to-day communication. However, following in his dad’s footsteps was not Kiehm’s life goal.

Marty Kiehm (pictured above) is the owner of Kiehm Construction

Marty Kiehm (pictured above) is the owner of Kiehm Construction

As a gifted student-athlete at Delavan High School, Kiehms first career choice landed him at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. After the military career lost its flash, Kiehm’s construction business ambition and love for flying started to take off!

Hoping to put two and two together, he went to Augsburg College, St. Paul where he graduated in 1983 with a business degree.

Flash forward to today, Kiehm Construction Inc. has 35 employees at their office/warehouse/manufacturing facility at the Lakeville Air Park.

Getting to Know Kiehm & His Company

Marty Kiehm now flies a twin-engine Cessna 340 with a pressurized cab for his everyday business schedule. His high regard for composite foam panel structural material is the reason behind Kiehm Construction’s growth and expansion around the country.

“This is the plane I use to visit clients, move clients to jobs, even travel prospective clients to view our work. I probably fly more than most pilots because my plane fits so well with our expanding business. I have a number of things going on across the country and I need to move from point A to point B. So aviation is truly a business necessity for me…”

Kiehm & Schweiss Bifold Doors

Kiehm Construction recently built two hangars (pictured above) at Lakeville Air Park, both featured composite insulated panels and were equipped with Schweiss bifold commercial aviation hangar doors.
The 70′ x 60′ hangar serves as a 24/7 hour facility for a Medi-Vac helicopter service. The smaller hangar has a 50′ x 16′ Schweiss bifold door, while the larger 100′ x 80′ hangar opens with an 80′ x 20′ Schweiss bifold door.

Kiehm got his affinity for Schweiss doors partially from the fact that Schweiss doors have been dominating the airport hangar business across Minnesota and the nation. Read Kiehm’s full review on Schweiss doors below…

“Mike Schweiss has been very helpful, very positive on any of our inquiries. And he and his crew are always helpful with suggestions on how to overcome a particular door issue on any construction job. We’ve done retrofit jobs getting doors on buildings that structurally were not capable of carrying the door but Schweiss has always been very cooperative in working with us on how to adapt a door to a building”

“They build quality. I’ve also noticed that Schweiss manufacturing is always looking for ways to improve their product. They’ve taken a very simple product, i.e., the bifold door and tweaked it, improved it functionally. Their lift strap device is a remarkable engineering coup. And now Schweiss gives you a choice, the ” Strap “bifold or the Red Power hydraulic door. I’m more a fan of the bifold, perhaps because we’ve done so many.

“I’ve suggested to Mike that he consider this composite insulated panel material for his doors. It’s the perfect solution for insulating a door without having to work around the framing structure of the door. Composite panel installed on the exterior gives you a full R25, or R32 or whatever thickness you put on. Schweiss is an innovative outfit so they’ll likely give this a try…”

So what’s so great about composite foam panel material? Marty Kiehm has the answer:

“We’ve found a niche and have figured out how to prospect the product. I think it’s a far superior product to typical metal construction. Because we’ve learned how to work with the product, we often complete a project ahead of schedule and below the original bid price…This is an excellent example of the product selling itself. We’re now selling to a national account that started with a 12,000 square foot building at Shakopee, barely 20 miles from our office. Because this firm is dealing with a product needing lots of vertical space, we’re building these structures with 24′ composite foam panel sidewalls…They’ve asked us to follow them around the country. Right now we’re doing a building just outside of Washington D.C.; our next project with them is in Connecticut. They like the finished look of their buildings. As a contractor/builder, we appreciate the convenience of working with such a product.”

Marty Kiehm stands proudly in front of a hangar and Schweiss Bifold Door

Marty Kiehm stands proudly in front of a hangar and Schweiss Bifold Door

The Process Behind Composite Foam Panels

The composite foam panel building material for hangars has several benefits over metal. Kiehm Construction is able to get projects done more efficiently so they can take on more products at a time.

“I’ve got some very good people that are very capable. At any given time, my project managers can be following two to three projects each. So even in this recessionary mood, we will have three to six projects going.”

2008 was one of Kiehm Construction’s top performing years of revenue, despite the economic issues in the construction industry and the country as a whole in 2008.

“2010 was a good year also but not quite measuring up to 2008. But this economy is constantly changing and we’ve had to change accordingly. We’re moving into a couple of other construction areas. We’re migrating into these other areas because money is in different places right now.”

Always up to date with current trends, Kiehm stays alert for new business opportunities. He could see energy and agriculture as two industries with potential growth and opportunity, as well as North Dakota’s rapidly expanding oil fracking industry.

“And we’re seeing inquiries from the Ag market for a ‘better building’ than the traditional pole shed structure which has dominated agriculture for several years. Both farmers and rural builders see the advantages of steel and the convenience of clear-span, especially as farm equipment keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

As the news has spread, commercial farm equipment deals have started to file through Marty Kiehm’s leads. The foam panels offer a certain geothermal heat/cool feature to structures which creates better insulation while lowering costs across the board.

“We’ve done millions of square feet of in-floor heat. Phenomenal product with the only question being how you are going to fuel it: waste oil, propane, natural gas, or the full route of geothermal. Geothermal is much more expensive, but the payback is there; it’s just a matter of how long do you want to wait for it.”

To Kiehm, there’s more to insulation than simply “R” values:

“Fiberglass has a place because it’s an economical product. Air infiltration is a big factor. The closed cell stops air infiltration and that’s what makes the composite insulated panel such a great product. It has all the advantages of precast: great insulator, impervious to water, air infiltration is practically zilch. However, the panels do not have the ‘impact durability’ of precast.”

So How Does Kiehm Construction Stay in the Game With the New Products, Ideas and Competitors Catching On?

  • Trade shows and journals
  • Reps calling on us to bring new products to market
  • Metal Con: one of the best trade shows for those who specialize in metal buildings
  • Attends Concrete Expo every year for new products and concepts
  • Newer technology and programs in the news or spread through word of mouth

Energy Efficiency Is the New Frontier

Kiehm listens closely to what’s happening in the world of energy efficiency. His current thought is that solar and other energy sources will begin to play an ever-growing role in the construction industry.

“People tend to think of solar more suited for southern areas because the ‘sun season’ is considerably longer. But solar works better in our northern climates because in the south, solar tends to overheat. It’s a great product but we have to figure out an easy and convenient way to keep the snow off in the winter season. He also raises the question of how do you make solar panels attractive from the street level.

How to handle new prospects with energy and multi-functional door concerns?
“When you see demand, you start to inquire. You have to educate yourself so you can share good information with your people.”

Kiehm’s thoughts on Minnesota’s business entrepreneurs and the business climate:
“I was born here and have put my roots down here. But I don’t see the business climate as being very favorable. We traditionally have a liberal political tendency in this state and in that atmosphere, taxes are always a front-burner item.”

Kiehm Construction has now done over 30 hangars at various airports across Minnesota, from Brainerd to Red Wing, as well as every ‘reliever airfield’ in the Twin Cities area. The company has also worked on high-end self-storage buildings from 15,000 to 20,000 square feet with unique features like drive-through accessibility and climate controlled environments.

Schweiss bifold and hydraulic aircraft hangar doors have been the door of choice for many aviation projects, but we have a door for every application, from stadiums to commercial storefront doors. Take a look the various uses for a Schweiss door to see if we can fit your need!

A Sleek Hangar