By Ashley Jost
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Members of the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 36 started construction on their new workshop, office and banquet space in St. Louis during the last few years, and since have brought the sustainablity-centered building into city limits.
Bob Barrett, Union marketing director, said since the building opened later last year, the organization has been able to bring in a new batch of trainees, and host multiple other organizations in the 600-person banquet hall. Additionally, the building houses offices for the union and benefits 30 employees.
“This is a state of the art workforce to train our members,” Barrett said. ‘We have to make sure they are the best trained in the industry.”
A glance at the building shows its uniqueness, with a slight peek at the wind turbines on the roof. The turbines, Barrett said, are one of multiple energy sources powering what he calls the “living lab of green technology.” Among the other energy sources include solar heating, solar electricity, solar producing hot water and natural light.
The 55,000 square foot building cost about $22 million to build, Barrett said, and not a dollar of it came from the government, which he said the Sheet Metal Workers pride themselves on. The only exception, he added, came from Brownfield tax credits when they first purchased the building, as the building was vacant and had been neglected prior to their purchase.
Barrett said the building houses five full-time instructors who work with the Union’s apprenticeship program, teaching students that come in from across the state — and eventually from across the country — how to weld, work with HVC programs, architectural work, panel siding, computer CAD drafting, how to maintain the energy systems that run the building and all other aspects of the field that will keep the members competitive.
The building is one of 10 throughout the country that’s commissioned to teach the three-day training and in the Testing Adjusting and Balancing lab.
Since the building’s construction, Barrett said there have been renovations to neighboring stores on the block, and said he’s glad the Sheet Metal Workers were able to give back to the community. He said he doesn’t think they could’ve done it without the help of their contractor’s partners, Congressman Lacy Clay, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Mayor Francis Slay and City Treasurer Tishaura Jones.
Jones, who said she helped the union primarily with the Brownfield tax credit application and other funding-related items, said she’s been more than impressed with the work done by the Sheet Metal Workers.
“They did a great job making sure it’s a lead-certified building,” Jones said about the Sheet Metal Workers’ building. “It reduces the carbon footprint and it’s got a top- high lead certification. Most importantly, it’s there to train people to be more gainfully employed. It’s all about jobs, which is what we talk about most.”
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