Case Studies

Rubb Building Systems Inc.

Quality prefabricated structures made in Sanford, Maine

Back in 1968, Norwegian businessman and mechanical engineer Finn Haldorsen started the Rubb Group to design fabric-covered buildings that could stand up to the Scandinavian country’s harsh winters. The company started by making tarpaulins and bags from PVC fabric and in 1968 completed the first fabric-covered building manufactured in Norway.

Named after Haldorsen’s hometown of Rubbestadneset, Rubb found early success as an engineering and consulting firm, leading to an expansion into England in 1977 as Rubb Buildings Ltd. Less than ten years later another expansion brought the company across the Atlantic as Rubb Building Systems Inc. established a U.S. presence in Sanford, Maine, in 1983.

Today under the leadership of president and director David C. Nickerson, Rubb Building Systems continues to manufacture prefabricated, portable structures, aircraft hangars, buildings, shelters and custom structures for a diverse roster of clientele.

Nickerson came on board at Rubb after a fateful road trip with Halderson. “He drove [Halderson] to Maine and a couple weeks later he offered him a job as GM,” says Chuck Auger, marketing manager at Rubb Building Systems. While Nickerson reports to the Rubb Group board of directors in Norway, Rubb Building Systems is its own entity. All three companies operating under the larger Rubb Group umbrella have full engineering, manufacturing and servicing capabilities on-site. The Rubb Group has sales offices in Singapore, Poland and Sweden, making the family of companies a global presence in the world of prefabricated building design.

Under the big top

Auger says there are two features common to every Rubb-designed building – a well-engineered steel frame and a PVC-coated polyester fabric cover. The buildings, also known as Rubbhalls in Europe, are cheaper than traditional brick and mortar construction and far more portable. Rubbhalls can be moved on wheels, rails or even lifted around a job site in fully-erected form.

“They are re-locatable, which is a big selling point for a lot of companies,” says Auger. This comes in particularly handy for military customers. “If a base moves, the building moves,” Auger says.

Designed without the need for support beams, the buildings designed by Rubb offer a large, clear span of open space making them particularly well-suited to be used as airplane hangars.

Rubb has furnished aircraft hangers for major airlines including United Airlines and AirTran Airways. Used primarily to perform maintenance on Boeing 717 and 777 aircraft, Rubb hangars can be found at both Logan International Airport in Boston and Atlanta International Airport.

Rubb Building Systems recently completed work on a hangar for Hawaiian Airlines at the Honolulu International Airport. The project required the company to work alongside the airline industry and state government. “It was demanding, politically, to get it through.” says Auger.

A standout in quality

All fabric-covered buildings are not created equal, according to Auger. One of the brand’s biggest challenges has been determining how to showcase its superior quality in a maligned market. “A lot of our competitors are selling crap, and we have to get that through to the customer,” says Auger.

When an indoor training facility for the Dallas Cowboys collapsed in 2009, the whole industry’s reputation took a hit. “That was one of our cheaper competitors. They didn’t follow code and now two or three guys are permanently disabled. It kind of hurt the industry in general,” says Auger.

Rubb’s buildings are on the higher end of the market – “the BMW/Lexus side of the equation,” according to Auger. “We’ve been trying to educate the customer on the quality difference,” he says. Rubb Building Structures does 90 percent of the work in-house, including all its own welding. While some assume that a structure like a Rubbhall would have a shorter lifespan than one of its brick and mortar counterparts, Auger says they are surprisingly resilient. “If you drive by the waterfront in Portland, Maine there are some that are 30-years-old. That’s pretty good for fabric,” he says.

Nickerson counts quality products and customer reviews as the most important indicators of success for Rubb Building Systems – that and the team’s impact on the community. Nickerson says he is motivated by helping the young people of Maine and strives to foster an environment of growth for his employees.

With a commitment to quality and a history of innovation, Rubb Building Systems Inc. will continue to provide the best possible prefabricated, portable building solutions for customers across the country and around the world.

Published on: August 18, 2015

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