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About Us

January/February 2005 IBEW Journal

"The heart 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 on 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."

A 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

As 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 $60 million.

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 would 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 rental income.




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A Brief History of
Our Buildings...


Left, Local 26 members,
from left, Foreman Lee Palmisano, John Smith
and Gary Thompson look
over blueprints.

















Left, Local 26 member Chris Kevan roughs in outlet boxes.