Urban Green and the United Association Forge Innovative Partnership



Today we are proud to announce an unprecedented partnership between Urban Green Council and the United Association, the largest union of plumbers, pipefitters, welders and service technicians in the world. Together, Urban Green and the UA will teach thousands of plumbers and pipefitters across the United States the principles of sustainability and how to incorporate green work practices into their trade through GPRO, a national green building training program. Plumbers and pipefitters are critical to achieving high-performing buildings.

Plumbers are responsible for reducing water use in buildings, from installing efficient fixtures and appliances to introducing whole-building wastewater reuse systems. Using less water also means using less energy to pump, heat, dispose of, and treat water – resulting in substantial amounts of energy savings. Plumbers have long considered their mission to “protect the health of the nation.” GPRO training expands that mission to include protection of the environment as well. Pipefitters, along with sheetmetal workers and insulators, are responsible for installing efficient HVAC systems that use as little energy as possible while keeping our buildings comfortable and healthy.

Over seven years ago, Urban Green realized that the only green building education available was geared towards building owners and design professionals. We knew that in order for sustainability to spread throughout the entire industry, quality green building education was needed for the people who build and operate buildings. To make the courses interesting and relevant to the students, we collaborated with a group of experts in the plumbing industry, most notably Arthur Klock and John Sullivan of the UA Local 1 Training Center in New York City. Their deep expertise and passion for sustainability gave us a solid foundation for the course. “The people in our industry have traditionally viewed themselves as stewards of public health. We knew that if we presented it in the right way, they would embrace sustainability as a natural extension of that responsibility, and view it as a technical challenge to get it right.” said Mr. Klock.

This partnership will train exponentially more plumbers and pipefitters in green practices than ever before. GPRO training will benefit the UA members by providing them with the qualifications necessary to work on green and LEED projects. Contractors and Owners can also benefit by receiving a LEED credit for employing GPRO trained workers.

Many people in our industry aren’t aware of the extensive training that union plumbers and pipefitters go through to become journey workers. Each apprentice completes  more than one thousand hours of classroom training over the course of five years, while working full time to learn his or her trade. Many also complete additional hours to earn an Associates degree along the way. Now that sustainability will be added to their curriculum, these very qualified workers will take the lead in constructing our green buildings.

About the authors

Ellen Honigstock
Ellen is Director of Education Development with Urban Green Council.