North Texas Daily

Beyond the construction: The University Union

Beyond the construction: The University Union

Beyond the construction: The University Union
August 28
00:44 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

In what marks the fourteenth month of the University Union’s renovation and expansion project, construction crews are erecting steel structures, pouring in concrete slabs for the floors and installing the outer walls for the revamped student center. The Master Plan is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2015, making the new Union the fourth LEED Certified building on campus.

“We are currently about 35 percent complete with construction,” said Jeannine Vail, senior project architect of facilities planning and construction. “By the end of the fall semester, the exterior facades will be complete and the focus will be on the interior.”

The University Union team will host a Topping Off Ceremony on Sept. 4 at the Onstead Promenade in the Library Mall. All concrete work will be finished and the highest steel beam will be placed on the Union.

Students are encouraged to come to the ceremony, using the hashtag #TagTheBeam to share the experience online. Music and free food will be provided.

Students can view a 3-D model of the Union via their smartphones by locating one of the four signboards surrounding the site area and following the directions. This allows current and prospective students to see the facility as it undergoes advancements.

Space and structural limitations of the old Union led former Union director Tom Rufer, vice president of student affairs Elizabeth With, the Student Government Association and student leaders to set up a referendum for the development of a new Union in 2010.

After two years, the student body approved of an increased $165 Union fee per semester toward improvements that will include a corner store open 24/7 and double the lounge space of the previous building.

Equipment and safety measures

Contractors and crewmembers at Beck/Warrior, a joint venture company between The Beck Group and Warrior Construction, primarily use forklifts to unload trucks of material, cranes that lift heavier items such as steel members, excavators for digging trenches and holes, and front-end loaders to move dirt piles and fill trenches and holes. The team hires a third-party inspection company that periodically inspects the cranes.

In order to learn more about the current status of the project, a job-wide safety meeting is held every Monday morning, which also details preventative measures concerning possible construction accidents.

Among the major topics discussed are safety hazards on site, areas of concern that need to be addressed and future areas of work that may require a new set of safety measures. Each time the team organizes a new task, a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is created, identifying any potential hazards and developing plans as necessary to prevent these hazards from causing accidents. The JHA is reviewed daily with crew members working on the set task.

Beck/Warrior is working with the UNT System and UNT Risk Management departments to ensure the safety of students and passers-by, who are not allowed on the job site. Along with the UNT Police, the team has also coordinated an emergency response plan to prevent the occurrence of accidents during the construction period.

“This is a detailed plan identifying specifically who does what in an emergency,” said Greg White, senior project manager at The Beck Group. “Safety is very important to Beck/Warrior.”

Before stepping on the job site, individuals are required to attend safety training and must present certifications that prove ability to operate equipment if needed and work in areas that require fall protection.

Teaching outside the classroom

In addition to renovation and expansion, the Union Master Plan has also given engineering students the opportunity to tour the construction site during the spring semester.

Arranged by the student-led Association of Construction Engineering Technology (ACET), the spring tour was scheduled in conjunction with students who interned with the Beck Group. Beck has also helped set up tours for engineering students during the construction of Apogee stadium.

“The intent of the tours of construction sites is always that the students learn from actual experience,” said Diane DeSimone, ACET advisor and Construction Engineering Technology faculty member at the College of Engineering. “Each project has unique aspects that can best be explained by actually seeing the process.”

These tours typically teach students about the safety precautions that must be taken on any construction site, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules, methods of demolition that avoid the damage of existing structures, steps to handle old and hazardous materials and the preparation for new construction.

Another area of importance is ensuring the use of “green” building materials for environmental protection, a trait UNT is known for.

Although some tours are arranged as a class project for course credit, DeSimone said the Union tour was specifically coordinated for personal development as part of the activities of ACET.

Last February, the organization was awarded third place as an outstanding student chapter of the National Association of Home Builders at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas.

Working with federal agencies and competing in both residential and commercial competitions, ACET provides engineering students with activities that can assist in their career development and their futures. The Union construction, which will eventually benefit the university as a whole, is providing a learning tool for these students right outside the classroom.

Featured Image: The new University Union is in its fourteenth month of construction and is still scheduled to open in the fall 2015 semester. Photo by Samantha McDonald – Staff Writer

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