Small Nebraska College Houses One-of-a-Kind Facility

Although one of its newest buildings, the Utility Line Building certainly is not the most imposing structure on the Northeast Community College campus in Norfolk, Nebraska.

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By Jim Peckham

Although one of its newest buildings, the Utility Line Building certainly is not the most imposing structure on the Northeast Community College campus in Norfolk, Nebraska. But it is one of the most interesting.

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Completed in July, 2007, the 36,800-square-foot facility houses the only indoor utility pole setting lab in the nation. The indoor setting allows students to learn year-round the skills required to do work for power and utility companies.

Norfolk-based Crafts Inc., an independent authorized Varco Pruden Builder, was the general contractor of what is literally the only college facility like it in the nation.

Some 76 utility line students and six professional truck driver training students began the fall semester in the $2.7-million facility that includes nine new classrooms/labs, six offices, and two mechanic’s bays. The poles in the building are 35 feet tall. However, students also practice on poles in the outdoor labs that are up to 60 feet tall.

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The building was designed to be energy efficient in heating, cooling, and electrical power consumption. It features motion sensor lighting controls and other energy-saving devices. Crafts Inc. used a wide variety of VP products, including the pre-engineered metal frame. VP’s framing system was used because of its cost-effectiveness and the quick turn-around time of construction. Because the framing system arrived ready to assemble, no time was required to cut the material to size–and there was no expensive waste. The project was completed in just 14 months.

According to Lyle Kathol, Northeast’s dean of applied technology, the facility is the first of its kind in the United States. “When designing this new facility, our architects, Beringer Ciaccio Dennell Mabrey of Omaha, Nebraska, could find no comparable facilities to research,” he said.

Kathol also noted that Northeast’s program is one of just three two-year utility line programs in the country. Northeast’s utility line program includes five full-time, on-campus faculty members and three, full-time, off-campus trainers.

The building is also surrounded by 600 acres of outdoor lab space. The facility can accommodate more than 100 full-time UL students on a daily basis and up to 48 truck driving students a year. There is even a motorcycle operator training class.

“At long last, one of Northeast’s signature programs has the facilities it deserves,” Kathol said. “We attract students to this program from all over the country and it is fitting that these students have such state-of-the-art instructional facilities.”


About the Author:
Jim Peckham is national marketing manager with Varco Pruden Buildings, Inc., one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of metal building systems. He has 24 years of experience in the metal buildings industry.

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