International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Completion: 2000
Project Area: 42,000 ft2
Services: Architecture, Planning

IKM Incorporated was commissioned to design the headquarters complex for the IBEW Local #5, on a parcel of land located at the new South Side Works development in the South Side of Pittsburgh. The organization sought to unite three important, but geographically separated functions into one location, simultaneously providing a showcase for the IBEW technology and craftsmanship.

Composed of three primary buildings, linked together by a series of public walkways and outdoor courtyards, the nearly 130,000 square foot, Y-shaped complex includes an office building, conference hall and a training facility. Although designed as a single-complex, each of the buildings can function independently of one another, yet all be managed by a single point of control.

The hallmark of the project is the successful implementation of the idea of a “laboratory for learning.” Conceptually, the training facility itself was intended to become part of the teaching program. Components of the building, such as the main switchgear, were designed to be visible and accessible to the instructors. Portions of walls were exposed through plexiglas panels showing the actual conduit and wiring assemblies that the apprentices would be learning about. Interior finishes were vibrant and industrial with exposed ductwork, a glass elevator, and a steel staircase. Colorful, contemporary furnishings were tastefully selected to create a sense of excitement about learning. One of the classrooms was designed with an indoor sand pit that emulates real ‘field’ conditions. The training center also contains a library and both instructors’ and students’ break rooms. Flanked on either side by courtyards, the training center along with the other buildings provides a campus-like setting. The classroom serves the night school and weekend programs – and since its completion is has fostered the development of a day-school program for electrical union apprentices.

The office building contains four levels of efficient and flexible office space with an ancillary lobby and reception area on the ground floor. The union organization’s administrative offices are located on the top level, with the balance of space available for prime tenants such as the Federal Credit Union and National Electrical Contractors Association. The office building (as are all of the spaces) is accessible from the main entry via an enclosed corridor. The first level of the building offers an enclosed parking garage for the IBEW’s use with other parking available on the site as well.

The Conference Center provides the IBEW a much-needed central meeting space, used primarily for monthly union meetings attended by all members. The main hall was designed with flexibility in mind; the room may be set up in a multitude of configurations, allowing for a range of environments from a warm intimate setting to the bustle of a general assembly. The center offers adjoining food service/preparation areas and a sizeable stage area. Acoustical quality and multimedia were considerations in the meeting room and all of the latest technologies are incorporated.

The exterior of the building is crisp and unique, yet inviting as well. Constructed of brick and glass curtain wall, the complex respects the vernacular building traditions of the surrounding area. Built on a brownfield development, the IBEW Headquarters reflects the image of the union organization as it makes a transition from the present to the future; respecting a long and rich history while providing a new, progressive facility designed to meet its members’ needs well into the future.

Overall, the IBEW Local #5 project was considered a huge success. It is becoming a model for other union organizations – and has drawn national attention. Mr. Thomas Chalmers, project manager of the IBEW for this project stated, “With this new facility, we were deciding the future of our organization. IKM understood our vision and delivered the design for this successful project.”