Earlier this year, Local 100, located just outside Washington, D.C., opened a newly renovated welding lab. The space is equipped with motion-sensor LED lighting, arc sensors at the end of exhaust nozzles, a self-cleaning HEPA filter system, and a Lincoln Low Vacuum Central System, an energy-saving exhaust and fan system engineered by welding manufacturer.

The local worked with Lincoln as well as local contractors to design the new lab.

“The main goal was to upgrade,” said Norbert Klusmann, Local 100 training director. “It hasn’t been done in 15 to 20 years. We wanted to go with the latest and greatest, so we wouldn’t have to do it again for another 15 or 20 years.”

All the air, as it leaves the shop, goes through a filtration system and 90 percent is directed back into the lab. The system allows air temperature to remain steady, allowing for energy efficiency no matter the season, Klusmann said.

“When you’re welding in one booth, the fan is spinning just fast enough for that one booth,” said Frank Santora, Local 100 welding instructor who headed up the project. “And when they’re finished, it shuts itself off.”

The HEPA filter keeps apprentices and journey people safe as they weld, making sure particulates are removed from the air they breathe. All the new equipment — while designed for the health and safety of sheet metal workers — was chosen for its energy efficiency and potential cost savings. Because the system is still new, actual savings were not available and could take up to a year to determine. The projection is considerable, Santora said.

“We should have a substantial cost savings as we are only running what fans we need when we need them,” Santora said. “The old system, when it was on, it was all on. A welding lab can put a burden on the rest of the building, but this one will not.”

While the planning for the project took upwards of a year, the welding lab was only inoperable for three months while the renovation took place, and because of how the apprenticeship is structured, didn’t negatively impact training.

Local 100 serves primarily the HVAC portion of the industry, but with special procedures written into specifications daily, it seems, keeping apprentices and journey people up on their welding certifications is the lab’s primary focus.

“It’s not about quantity,” Klusmann said. “We don’t get a lot of requests for 50 welders. That doesn’t happen. It’s about quality.”

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