One of the biggest grocery retailers in the USA, The Kroger Company chose the SimTek fence solution for their new store complex in Harrison, Ohio.

The new complex was to be built on farmland in front of an existing condominium complex, whose residents, mostly retirees were not thrilled by the prospect of looking out their windows and seeing the back of a new mall.

Since the existing treeline that separated the condos and the store site would have to be removed in the course of construction, Kroger wanted to provide a proper replacement that would shield the view of the structure aesthetically.

The Kroger Co. approached established fence contractor Eads Fence Co. of Loveland, Ohio to design and build a barrier. A 12-feet high wall or fence, approximately 1,700 lineal feet in length would be required to give the neighbours the privacy they desired.

Eads Fence Co. President Dale Eads and sales manager Mike Hunter searched for fencing materials that would meet both functional and aesthetic requirements. The materials would have to be strong enough to withstand high wind loads.

During the course of the store project, Eads began to sell products from SimTek Fence, an Orem, Utah-based company, which produced a simulated stonewall that could not only withstand high winds but also handle the cold and heat of southwest Ohio in addition to providing an attractive alternative to typical fencing and walls.

Though SimTek panels come in a variety of sizes, the company only produces posts to support panels up to 8 feet high. But the project needed a post that could withstand the wind load created by a 12-feet high, 1,700-feet long ‘sail’.

SimTek regional manager, Ted Nelson recommended a steel I-beam that could be modified to hold the panels securely, in the same way the SimTek posts were designed to hold the SimTek panels. The I-beam also needed to be concealed with a skin that would blend with the colour of the panels.

The company utilised 8” x 8” vinyl posts custom extruded by Eastern Wholesale Fence Company, Inc. to obtain the length necessary to cover the I-beams. Eastern’s matching New England style cap was a fitting finish, giving the posts and wall the final touch of class.

Installing the I-beams on the wall presented a whole new set of engineering challenges, requiring them to consult with Joe Kowalski, P.E., of RetainingWallExpert.com, and Kevin Mitchell of the Kroger facilities engineering department.

The project installer, Donnie Bringer and Eads lead welder, Robert Kent provided the solution as they designed and built jigs for the wall, fabricated in the Eads welding shop. Hunter said that about half of the I-beams had to be designed for mounting to a poured concrete wall and the balance set into the soil.

To ensure that the installed beams exceeded wind loads while being perfectly level, the installer had to drill precision holes through the wall with proper alignment. Donnie and Robert designed and built two steel jigs that could be mounted to the wall and levelled on an x and y axis, which allowed them to drill precisely spaced holes to match the holes that had been drilled through the steel I-beams.

Hunter adds that the SimTek fence provided Eads Fence with the answers to a number of issues presented by a project of this size and complexity.

Highlights of the SimTek fencing solution:

  • All the posts mounted in the soil were cemented 4’ deep and on the wall 4’ below the wall grade to meet the wind load factor
  • Fencing panels can stand up to a 110 mph wind
  • Long term aesthetics of the simulated stone wall with zero maintenance requirement
  • Effective soundproofing solution with the fence reflecting 98% of the sound that hits it
  • Reduces normal noise pollution typically associated with delivery and waste removal trucks entering and leaving the mall
While it took about six weeks to assemble all the materials for the job, the installation process, which began in July, was completed in December. The finished wall has been appreciated by the local homeowners.

Key features of SimTek Fence panels and posts:

  • Designed as an alternative to vinyl and concrete fencing and stone walls
  • Fabricated using high-impact polyethylene plastic and galvanised steel
  • Made in the USA
  • Simulated rock fencing uses new and recycled materials
  • Available in six designer granite colours
  • Designed for use in commercial, industrial as well as residential applications
  • Allows easy graffiti clean-up
  • Blocks 98% of direct sound
SimTek Fence panels and posts are available in Australia from Composite Materials Australia .