Behind the Wall or On It: Using Copper to Create Stunning Façades

Behind the Wall or On It: Using Copper to Create Stunning Façades
27 Sep 2018

Intricate mazes of pipes created by plumbers are usually tucked behind the walls. It’s often difficult to even know what type of material is used. However, at Local 130 the materials are being highlighted on the building’s façade.

The United Association (UA)’s Local 130 Plumbers Training Facility is one of the latest additions to Chicago’s impressive architectural portfolio. Featuring a stunning use a copper paneling and design, the project’s architectural firm, Gensler, sought to not only showcase copper’s incredible architectural applications, but draw attention to how essential copper is to the plumbing industry.

Photo 4_Tom Harris

Photo Credit: Tom Harris

To attract a new generation of plumbers and pipefitters, materials synonymous with the plumbing trade, such as copper piping, galvanized steel and black pipe served as inspiration for the new local union. Copper piping is usually hidden behind a wall or floor, silently and dutifully performing tasks essential to our daily lives such as transporting and protecting our clean drinking water, all without notice. The design team wanted to celebrate both copper’s incredibly durable and aesthetic architectural performance by designing a copper wall cladding system.

Photo 8_Tom Harris

Photo Credit: Tom Harris

Copper has seen an increased use in wall cladding applications in the past decade, especially due to the material’s longevity, as copper cannot is extremely corrosion-resistant. Copper was also installed on the inside of the facility in symbolic installations, such as the bathroom sinks, to emphasize how vital copper piping is to delivering clean water.

Photo 7_Tom Harris

Photo Credit: Tom Harris

The 50,000-square foot facility used copper paneling, which were installed by professionals from Tuschall Engineering. The panels are arranged in a vertical pattern and due to copper’s natural resilience, will look just as beautiful a century from now.

For their incredible work, Gensler’s architectural team was selected as a 2018 North American Copper in Architecture (NACIA) Award winner in the “New Construction” category. Following votes submitted by their peers, the architectural community and the public, 130 Plumbers Training Facility was also selected as the first People’s Choice Award Winner, which recognizes 2018’s most admired copper architecture project.

130 Plumbers Training Facility_Peoples Choice Award Winner _ Credit - Copper Development Association

For more information about the 2018 NACIA Award winners and copper’s architectural versatility, visit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *