The architectural and ornamental ironworkers union of Chicago (Local 63) has been around for more than a century, and over the last few decades, pre-glazed curtainwall has represented a big part of the group’s work—and that will continue to be the case for years to come.

Apprentices at the Local 63 apprentice training center install pre-glazed curtainwall.
Apprentices at the Local 63 apprentice training center install pre-glazed curtainwall.

Local 63 recently took its curtainwall installation training a step further. The group installed a unitized curtainwall mock-up—spanning 22 feet high, 30 feet long and another 10 feet long around a corner—in its apprenticeship training center.

The mock-up consists of an 800-square-foot, pre-glazed curtainwall, supplied by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope©, installed on a preexisting steel structure. The steel structure has a first floor, second floor level and roof, with the shop floor serving as the ground level, and two plywood-covered levels above it.

Various times throughout the year, apprentices participate in the curtainwall installation of the 16 5-by-11-foot panels.

“For years and years our locals have been installing this,” says Russ Gschwind, apprentice coordinator of Ironworkers Local 63. “So we thought it was a good thing to put in there.” He says it’s a win-win for both the union workers and the contractors, as it provides the workers the proper training and skill-set they need while giving the contractors the confidence and experience they require to successfully compete a job.

“We’re more than happy to work with our contractors to prepare our guys,” he says.

When the mock-up was in the planning stage, one of the contractors Local 63 worked with had a connection with Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® in Canada, so a representative from there came out to the training center, took measurements and drew up the plan.

Local 63 put in a request to Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) for help in funding the curtainwall purchase. Gschwind says IMPACT typically funds approximately 50 percent of a project of that kind, and Local 63 planned to cover whatever IMPACT wouldn’t. However, IMPACT, ultimately covered the entire purchase.

The project was fully funded on an agreement that it could be used for all locals in the area, not just Union 63’s training. “So it’s basically for regional training,” he says.

The idea for the mock-up was set in motion about two years ago, and was first erected by apprentices in the fall of 2013. It was taken down in the spring of 2014 and installed again later in the year.

The unitized curtainwall training program consists of first- and second-year apprentices working together on the project.

The first-year apprentices receive classroom training about the physical installation of the curtainwall, while those in their second year do the survey and layout for the project. Then the first-years read the blueprints and install the curtainwall in the facility, which utilizes an overhead crane and simulates an on-site job.

Gschwind says the program is aiming to complete two installations this spring. Past rounds had eight apprentices working on each part of the project, but he says they’ll have to be divided into two groups this year because of growing interest.

Below is a video Local 63 released this week on its apprentice training program:


  1. Best watch out, the glaziers are almost out of business, and if the landscapers don’t get some fiberglass mowers, the steel workers will take that work too.

  2. there go’s the iron workers raiding glazier work.

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