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Sense of Place

Sense of Place

New Academic Building at UNT Dallas: Creating a campus
University Business, Nov 2010

"We're the new U." The tag-line is fitting for The University of North Texas at Dallas, which, in September became its own independent four-year university after a decade of being considered a branch campus of UNT in Denton. The just-opened second building on its campus creates a physical presence to complement the separate identity UNT Dallas officials have been building for themselves.

  • FUNCTION: A three-story, 103,000- square-foot building with classrooms, offices, a computer lab, a virtual library, food court, and multipurpose rooms.
  • CHALLENGES: UNT Dallas has come a long way. It opened not just as a branch location but in a different location in 2000. The current 264-acre site's first building was occupied in January 2007. It had all the elements of a high-tech university facility, and there were outdoor seating areas, but creating a collegiate campus feel is difficult with a single building, particularly one with no dining facility.

Crowding also quickly became an issue. Students were attracted to the institution (which was unable to accept freshmen at first) in part because of its affordability, with many of the typical fees omitted. "We were extremely overtaxed with faculty and staff we were bringing in," says Gregory Tomlin, executive director of marketing and communications, who has been with the institution three years, initially as the interim director of finance and administration. "We had reached the point of having no more offices." Adjunct faculty, originally in individual offices, were moved to a previous work study room with a handful of desktops.

Plans were moving quickly to add a second building to campus, but by the time construction began last summer, two temporary buildings were in use.

A roof garden created over one wing is both aesthetically pleasing and sustainable. Buffalo prairie grass only needs annual mowing, and a drainage system allows rainwater to be collected and used for irrigation.

The timeline was tight, but weather did not cooperate. "We had a 13-inch snowfall on this campus. Everybody thought the apocalypse had come," Tomlin quips.

  • SOLUTION: The general contractors, Beck Group and Warrior Group, particularly felt the pain. The team proposed changing the interior wall finish to a mildew/moisture-resistant green board - which also happened to be composed of 90 percent recycled material. That change enabled the project to stay on schedule, says Trelaine Mapp, general manager/director of local projects at Warrior Group.

Officials are pursuing LEED Gold for the facility, which also features high-efficiency mechanical controls, solar panels, and a green roof garden. That rooftop has become a favorite spot, Tomlin says. "It's very calm and serene, with a great view in three directions. All you see is rolling hills and trees."

Of course, the building also provides space so desperately needed. For example, the campus now has a lecture hall seating 130, when 80 was the largest before. And the campus can now host banquets. With more classroom and meeting space, new staff to create student programming, and now the first freshmen class, Tomlin says, "already the culture is changing."

  • COST: $41.8 million
  • COMPLETED: August 2010
  • TEAM: Overland Partners Architects (San Antonio); general contractors Warrior Group and Beck Group, (Dallas)