In the 1989 film, “Field of Dreams,” the character Ray Kinsella is haunted by a voice that tells him repeatedly, “If you build it, they will come.”
VersaTube Building Systems has put a slight wrinkle to that line: If you come to us with an idea, we can build it.
That’s how VersaTube’s pipeline shelter came to be.
“We might not ever have thought of that application until the company came to us,” says Gregg Rezabek, director of marketing and advertising.
VersaTube Building Systems got its start in 1994 under its official name, Mid-South Metal Products, although it does business under the VersaTube name. Founded by Tim Soder, president, and Bruce Ostertrander, vice president, the company made hammock stands.
In 1997, they created VersaTube, which brought innovation to the steel tube framing industry. They invented a machine to perform a process known as swaging.
“What that does,” Rezabek explains, “is create a slip-fit frame connection. It allows the end of one steel tube frame component to easily slip into the end of the other without the use of any kind of insert tube. It created an Erector Set kind of framing system.”
The slip-fit connection simplifies assembly of structural steel frames, thereby reducing construction time. This also allows for the system to be designed with frame components that are manageable in size for easy handling and compact packaging. The components are packaged together and hauled to the job site on a pallet.
“You basically spread everything out and put the pieces together,” Rezabek says.
In addition, all the tubing is galvanized to reduce the chance of corrosion. The framing system is a 2-inch by 3-inch rectangular tubing, 14-gauge domestic steel. The roofing is a multi-purpose sheet metal. “It is an all metal building,” Rezabek adds.
The first VersaTube project was a carport, but it has moved on to buildings like garages and horse barns.
“We can now do buildings up to clear spans of up to 52 feet wide,” Rezabek says.
And now the company adds to the list a new application for its shelter products – as sun shields, shade canopies, well pump covers or metering facility shelters for the nation’s oil, gas and liquid pipeline industry.
Prompted by a request from a national contractor, VersaTube designed and produced a custom shelter for use at metering facilities placed at interconnect locations along a natural gas pipeline. Sun shields provide the necessary shade at each location to allow accurate gas readings where the pipeline is above ground and exposed to the weather.
The configuration flexibility of the VersaTube framing system easily addressed the variety of shelter sizes required. The sun shield units ranged in size from 12-feet wide by 32-feet long up to the largest at 25-feet wide by 140-feet long — all with 7.5-foot rafter heights. Some were also enclosed on each side with additional sheet metal panels.
All units were configured to exceed coastal wind load requirements and were shipped with stamped engineering plans. Each cover was customized to include mounting plates for lighting fixtures and designed to allow rapid disassembly in the event of a facility emergency or the required replacement of exposed pipeline components.
“The development of the pipeline cover was driven by the demand of the employees of the oil and gas pipeline industry,” says Tom Neely, business development manager. “There isn’t anything special about this unit compared to our other structures, but this group had a specific need for a sun shade.”
In the pipeline industry, Neely explains, there are metering facilities that read the flow of gas going through pipes. If the sun warms the above-ground pipes, the readings become erratic. “More or less, our structure provides shade that allows for accurate readings,” he said.
One of the requirements for the pipeline shelter was the need for lighting inside the structure for night maintenance. “In addition to that, we had to redesign our truss system to allow the rib canopy to be moved from the cover while allowing the light fixture to remain intact,” Neely says. “That’s what makes this product special from our standard product line.”
The biggest challenge to the pipeline shelter was the truss system. “The success of that customization comes from the patented swage process,” Neely says. “Whereas on our standard units, we utilize side posts that run from the base rail and up the side wall. Well, if you’re going to bolt the light to that side post, the entire assembly would have to be removed to get inside there to lift out a large piece of equipment. We cut the side post off, applied the swage technique to the end of it, and slipped the top portion of the side post on top. If you bolt the light to the lower portion, it gives you the whole upper half to move while keeping the lighting in place.”
The pipeline company ordered between 25 and 30 units from VersaTube, yet all of the units are different sizes, depending on the metering stations.
VersaTube Building Systems is headquartered in Collierville, Tenn., and also has a plant in Guadalupe, Ariz., near Tempe. Everything for the structures is manufactured in house. The company has upwards of 30 employees in Tennessee, and another 15-20 in Arizona. Last year it did $11 million in business.
The structures are installed onsite, by the customers themselves. According to Rezabek, VersaTube Building Systems are geared for the do-it-yourself customer, as a Saturday afternoon project, as well as for professional contractors.
“We have the capability to do so many different configurations,” says Rezabek. “We did a car corral that was eight cars wide. We can also go as long as you want, and we can as high as a 16-foot building.”
Or in other words, if you can dream it, VersaTube can probably create the structure you need.