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Chicago Plumbers Union Breaks Ground on New Gensler-designed Training Facility

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The new building will feature exposed pipework and special workshops for hands-on instruction

Today, Chicago’s Plumbers Local 130 broke ground on a new three-story West Loop training facility. While some will still mourn the loss of the detailed limestone-clad, neo-classical Plumbing Industry Center that once stood at 1400 W. Washington before an April date with the wrecking ball, there’s no denying that the replacement design — drawn up by the folks at Gensler — is a breath of fresh air. More closely resembling a trend-setting tech company than a union apprenticeship, this certainly ain't your father's plumbin’ school.

Designed specifically to showcase state-of-the-art sustainable technology that is typically hidden away behind walls, the Local 130 JAC Training Facility will highlight water circulation, greywater harvesting, and solar heating processes behind transparent panels. In addition to traditional classrooms for teaching theory, hands-on educational workshops will allow students to learn welding, cutting, and soldering. The 48,000-square-foot center will also feature training environments meant to replicate real world conditions that future plumbers would expect to face in the field like a wood-frame home and a sunken pit designed to simulate an underground construction site.

The building’s material palette also borrows heavily from the plumbing trade as its perforated, copper-anodized facade draws a clear parallel to old-school copper piping. The facility also features a large indoor multi-purpose event space plus green roof with an outdoor terrace facing Chicago's skyline. Construction will be handled by O’Neil and is expected to wrap-up by July of next year.