January/February 2005 IBEW Journal
and soul of the IBEW is found in union halls
and work sites throughout North America, but
the symbolic home of the Brotherhood is the International
Office. We are pleased that our new building
is a fitting symbol of a union proud of its traditions
and committed to a progressive future," said
IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill
as the union moved into its new headquarters
January 21, 2005.
"Our new headquarters stands as a point of pride
for our members, especially for the quality of the
craftsmanship that has gone into its constructionthe
same quality that IBEW members display on projects
across North America," said IBEW International
Secretary-Treasurer Jerry J. OConnor. The 11-story,
350,000-square-foot new building is located at 900
Seventh Street, N.W., in the heart of the revitalized
Washington, D.C., neighborhood known as the East End.
The officers emphasized that the purchase of a new
building was in the best long-term financial interests
of the Brotherhood, as the new building will generate
significantly more income from leased space than the
former headquarters on 15th Street, N.W. The IBEW will
occupy fewer square feet than in the old building,
while increasing productivity and service to the membership
through the use of state-of-the-art technology and
an advanced infrastructure. "To renovate our former
International Office (I.O.) to achieve the same gains
would have been extremely costly and taken longer," President
Hill added. "When we ran the numbers, the move
made the most fiscal sense and represented the best
use of our members money."
contemporary design in glass and stainless steel, the
new building will be among the first buildings in Washington,
D.C., to use solar panels to help power electricity.
All materials used in the construction and furnishing
of the new building were 100 percent union, as, of
course, was the labor that made it all happen.
Project Millennium Plays a Role
The National Electrical Benefit Fund (NEBF), a multiemployer
pension fund jointly administrated by the IBEW and
the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA),
provided a substantial part of the investment capital
for 900 Seventh Street even before the IBEW decided
to purchase the building. When ground was broken on
the project in 2001, it was one of over a dozen new
properties being developed by the NEBF as part of its
Project Millennium real estate investment program.
The building was considered a premier property for
its location and for providing valuable and needed
new office space in Washington, D.C.
Gerald Brumbaugh, Local 26
member installing light fixture.
"Investing IBEW pension dollars in real estate
projects such as 900 Seventh Street creates investment
income for our pension funds and guaranteed jobs for
our members and contractors," said Secretary-Treasurer
OConnor. "These jobs in turn generate new pension
contributions, making your pension funds even stronger.
Its a win-win formula we are repeating across America."
"The dollars that are helping to secure our future
retirement are also working to provide jobs for our
members," said IBEW Third District International
Executive Council member Salvatore J. Chilia. "Thats
a major plus."
From Investment to Home
construction of 900 Seventh Street was well underway,
the NEBF trustees contemplated whether to lease the
building or sell it altogether. Meanwhile, the IBEWs
officers assessed the state of the International Office.
After more than 30 years, the building at 1125 15th
Street, N.W. was showing its age. Elevators and heating
and cooling systems were in dire need of replacement
and structural issues had to be addressed. The buildings
design had outlasted its useful function and was in
need of major renovation. Estimated costs to repair
and upgrade 1125 15th Street were in the vicinity of
Journeyman inside wireman
Tom Alt pulling wire to start
circuit for emergency power.
"We had maintained the building well but it was
time for a complete overhaul," said Patrick Reilly,
Senior Executive Assistant to the International Secretary-Treasurer. "The
officers determined it would have been too costly to
try to bring the building up to todays standards." The
decision was made to seek a new location for the International
Office, and 900 Seventh Street met all the requirements.
Local 26 members, from left,
Jorge Heredia and Mark Meeks
working on controls.
In 1972, the last time the International Office moved,
its new headquarters were modern, technologically up-to-date
and well suited for its purposes. Since then, workplace
designs emphasizing greater space efficiencies had
evolved, yet the IBEWs floor plan was mired in the
past. Large offices and wide hallways and sprawling
workstations were wasted space in a downtown venue
that placed a premium on every inch of space. Defined
departments, set apart from each other and existing
as separate entities, contributed to a sense of division.
And the lack of a modern, advanced technological infrastructure
limited the IBEWs ability to function at maximum efficiency
Such structural and cosmetic limitations restricted
the IBEWs ability to attract high-paying tenants.
By the standards of the local commercial real estate
market, the building at 1125 15th Street, though respectable,
did not command the premium rents that a class-A building
in an up-and-coming neighborhood would. The new building
is already attracting tenants, who are paying nearly
$50 per square foot, in contrast to the mid-$30s paid
in the neighborhood of the old International Office.
The new building has given the IBEW the opportunity
to take advantage of space-saving workstations which
are primarily situated in open-floor plan areas that
remove physical departmental divides. Individual offices
are sized according to professional standards, being
smaller than those at the old I.O. even as the new
building itself is significantly larger than the previous
headquarters. The ground level has room for 18,000
square feet of retail space that will also be leased.
"These factors will enable us to realize long-term
gains for our money," President Hill said. "Secretary-Treasurer
OConnor, all the International Officers and I consider
one of our most sacred trusts to be the careful management
of the Brotherhoods moneymoney that is largely
the dues paid by our members. We believe that it
have been irresponsible not to seize this opportunity
at this point in time."
The IBEW completed the purchase of 900 Seventh Street
in June 2004. The IBEW will only use about half the
square footage it occupied in the old I.O., about 100,000
square feet. The remainder of the space will be leased
to tenants at market rates, netting significant annual