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IBEW Local 134 Union Hall: Union lights a 'beacon'

Electrical workers’ local converts an abandoned Chicago school into a brightly lit union hall.

November 28, 2018 |
IBEW Local 134

The LED illumination acts as a welcome sign to the community, while calling attention to the IBEW’s professional trade. Paul Schlismann Photography.

Drake elementary school was one of 47 elementary schools decommissioned by Chicago Public Schools in 2014, due to declining student enrollment. The building, constructed in the 1960s in the Bronzeville neighborhood, south of the Loop, attracted the interest of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, which was looking to move out of its West Side union hall.

The IBEW local brought in Wight & Company, which performed a feasibility study using cloud point laser scanning, structural testing, and geotechnical testing to verify that the school could be transformed into the proposed new use.

The 70,000-sf project involved 48,000 sf of renovation and 22,000 sf of new construction. The structure was heavily reconstructed to accommodate business offices, lounges, conference rooms, a museum, and a rooftop patio. Memorial Hall, the 22,000-sf addition, can seat 1,000 and can be easily reconfigured for events ranging from banquets to training. The addition also houses a gymnasium that is open to local residents.

Sustainability features include architectural overhangs to control solar heat gain, as well as permeable pavers and rain gardens for stormwater detention. And, of course, LED fixtures that connect back to a central lighting system.

Naturally, light plays a key role in the new building. Not only does it represent the union’s trade, it also creates an ambient backdrop at the entry plaza and into the mass of the union hall.

IBEW logos measuring 25 feet in height were printed on the exterior glass and backlit by LED lights. This creates a “firefly” effect to attract community members to the building, now known affectionately as “the Beacon of Bronzeville.”


Silver Award Winner

BUILDING TEAM Wight & Company (submitting firm, architect, SE, MEP, CM) International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 (owner) DETAILS 70,000 sf Total cost $25 million Construction time October 2016 to March 2018 Delivery method Design-build

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