Plumbers Local 130 UA Training Center

  • area / size 45,651 sqft
  • Completed 2017
  • Gensler has designed the training facility for Plumbers Local 130 UA Training Center located in Chicago, Illinois.

    In the changing economic climate of the post-recession labor market, the Chicago Local 130 Plumbers Union consolidated with a number of other suburban and southeast Wisconsin plumbing unions to create a larger, more powerful member base. This combined organization needed a training facility for their future apprentices to position them for the future of plumbing technologies while focusing on the ever growing importance of water as a resource. The project’s location in the City of Chicago, rather than its suburbs, is a direct reflection of the union’s commitment to the city.

    Gensler’s approach to this facility was to showcase, not hide, the important work this trade organization does for the health and welfare of the built environment. The material palette is based on the materials plumbers use in their trade: copper and steel feature prominently throughout the design.

    The facility has multiple levels of transparency – walls that would normally be opaque now allow people to see the plumbing working within. Technologies such as greywater harvesting, solar-vacuum-tube water heaters, and photovoltaic cells are displayed prominently in the building’s lobby along with historic plumbing technology, to further compliment a multi-modal solution to hands-on learning and celebrate the tradition of plumbing innovation in Chicago.

    In order to maximize educational adjacencies, classrooms used for teaching code and theory incorporate wet labs so apprentices have the opportunity to learn by doing, not just by lecture. “Hot works” classrooms provide places to learn welding, cutting, soldering and brazing to prepare the apprentices for the various aspects of on-the job conditions. A three-story workshop includes a wood-frame model home and an underground pit, which will simulate underground plumbing construction. These unique educational spaces enable apprentices to apply and test concepts learned in the classroom in a real-life scenario.

    Pride in its people, its place, and its processes is at the core of the union’s culture. Classes of apprentices become lifelong friends and companions, united by a learning experience and social bond. This facility will celebrate them, and create a place where generations of journeymen and apprentices can come together to honor their shared trade.

    Architect: Gensler
    Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction Co.
    Photography: Tom Harris