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Going modular

Profile image for Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer
Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer

Company installs temporary buildings at UNT as part of University Union project

Consider the modular building. Most people associate the idea with portable classrooms behind a school: simple structures with an air-conditioning unit sticking out the side.

The structures being installed by Ramtech Modular Buildings for the University of North Texas defy the stereotype of portables, and someone inside the building wouldn’t be able to tell that it isn’t permanent, said Steve Sickman, Ramtech’s director of marketing.

“People are very, very pleasantly surprised at what the buildings are going to be,” he said of the UNT project. “From the outside, to the trained eye, you’ll recognize it. But when you get inside, it’s going to have all the amenities that a permanent building has.”

Ramtech is constructing three modular buildings, which will be used until 2015 when the University Union project is completed. From this fall until the fall of 2015, there will be no offices operating in the union — all are being relocated.

For $3.5 million, Ramtech is constructing and installing three buildings: one for the College of Visual Arts and Design, one for counseling and higher education, and a third for the dance and theater department.

Combined, the buildings will provide 37,778 square feet of additional classroom space, lab teaching space, and faculty and staff offices.

Segments of the buildings are constructed at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Mansfield and are made with the same materials and care as a permanent structure, Sickman said.

There are separate state and federal requirements and regulations for the buildings, plus they have to be able to travel on the highway to the site, so they are built to be solid and safe, he said.

“When customers come out [to the facility] to understand and see it, they really reach a comfort level that this works, and [realize] ‘This is not what I thought modular buildings were,’” Sickman said.

The buildings are transported in pieces to the job site, where they’ll sit on a foundation of concrete blocks. Wooden steps and ramps lead up to the entrances, and the entire exterior looks like stucco.

Inside, the main floors are vinyl composition tiles, with carpet tiles inside rooms and offices. The walls are outfitted with vinyl-covered gypsum. Heating and cooling units are located in the ceiling.

“Most people walk into these buildings and, once you get inside, it’s going to be finished off in a way that you feel like you’re in a permanent structure,” Sickman said. “There are offices that will function just like they did in the buildings they came from.”

These are custom-built based on a rendering by an architect to best meet UNT’s needs, said Don Lynch, director of system facilities administration.

“The modulars are still custom-built. It’s not like when you buy a car and you say you want that one,” Lynch said. “We’re getting exactly what we had expected, and it’s coming along just fine.”

The project is approaching the final portion of the installation phase — one site where the College of Visual Arts and Design and counseling and higher education buildings are located is completed, and the third building is 50 percent complete.

Once the offices move out in 2015, both Sickman and Lynch said the buildings will still be in good condition for continued use.

“Now, it’s not a 100-year building, but it will serve our purpose and could last for some use — I’m not saying the current use — but could last 15, 20, 25 years as viable buildings to occupy and utilize,” Lynch said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.