The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Training Center has provided instruction for Chicagoland Laborers’ Union members since 2009. Hands-on training courses include equipment operation, demolition, paving, sewer maintenance, scaffolding assembly, and piping installation. Serving various Illinois and federal government agencies, including the Department of Public Health, OSHA, and the EPA, the programs are structured to prepare educated, safety-oriented, productive laborers for an increasingly divergent workforce.


To keep up with a growing demand for labor, Chicago-based Eckenhoff Saunders Architects (ESA) were recently contracted to design a state-of-the-art, 53,000-square-foot addition to the existing facility. Since its founding 39 years ago, the client-centered firm has served as lead architect for more than $2 billion in construction projects while its 52 staff members have earned professional accolades for distinguished design and excellent service.

Plans for the LiUNA expansion included classrooms, high-ceiling equipment, vehicle training bays, an enhanced piping shop, an auditorium, and a cafeteria. Tailored needs for the hands-on instructional facility required the ESA design team to strike a strategic balance between function and aesthetics.


While the exterior was designed with a non-load-bearing precast color to match the existing structure, the interior spaces required durable materials that would hold up to the hustle and bustle created by authentic simulations.

Bob Plebanski, AIA and senior associate explains, “For those spaces, it was important to have a material that would perform as well as it looked, and for us that meant Echelon Masonry’s Trendstone ground face materials, a product we have utilized for both commercial and educational projects. Our successful experience with the materials assured us it was the right choice for this project.”

To create the contrasting pattern for the interior walls, Plebanski and his team combined Trendstone Plus and Mesastone, two of Echelon’s most durable and aesthetically pleasing masonry products.

 The lead architect adds, “With training bays that accommodate 2,000 students per year, there are a lot of people and heavy equipment constantly going through this building. We needed a material that could take abuse, clean easily, and present well to the public areas of the facility. Trendstone and Mesastone are extremely wear-resistant and have the added benefit of being a perfect sound barrier between classrooms and often noisy training areas.”

In addition, the pre-finished architectural concrete masonry is manufactured with pigmented aggregate to provide a variety of color options and uniformly finished to create an evenly textured block, which is easy to lay up. Trendstone Plus® filled and polished units provide a smooth terrazzo finish, which adds some flair and brightness to the LiUNA hallways and common areas. Trendstone Plus and Mesastone are available in nine base colors and are distinguished by more than 100 nuanced shades.


The veteran professionals from Vimak Construction and Masonry, Inc. undertook the complex installation for the addition. Owner and President, Victor Kusmierczyk, founded the company nearly 20 years ago and has grown the business into a top-notch firm with a reputation for precision and excellence in a broad range of masonry applications.

Working under a tight timeline, Kusmierczyk and his team found Trendstone Plus and Mesastone to be efficient and easy to maneuver.  

He comments, “We really like this product and have used it on many projects. It is top quality and always looks good after installation. For LiUNA, we were able to combine the different colors in one installation to complete the architect’s design pattern. Everyone who worked with these materials was very impressed.”

Both materials and design reflected Chicago’s sustainability guidelines, which allow development teams to choose from a menu of strategies that can be tailored to fit a project’s characteristics.


Echelon has taken a leadership role in creating innovative and sustainable masonry solutions, enabling architects and building owners to achieve points towards obtaining LEED certification. In addition to earning excellent fire ratings, Trendstone Plus and Mesastone are manufactured with built-in mold and moisture resistance ensuring that they will withstand the test of time.

The ESA design included many attractive, yet eco-friendly features. Plebanski notes, “To help lighten the look, we introduced continuous clerestory windows at the top of the precast to provide natural daylighting to the training bays along with sunshades to minimize summer heat. We also installed a green roof tray system to aid in roof heat load reduction and rainwater management.”

To add some local identity, he and his team introduced a form-liner to depict an abstract Chicago skyline as seen from their location on the west side of the city as well as a permanent memorial to fallen laborers, which adorns the building.


When the new addition was completed in August 2019, the Chicago campus became the largest LiUNA center in North America training 3,500 members annually. The response from instructors and trainees has been overwhelmingly positive.

Plebanski reflects, “The combination of Mesastone and Trendstone and polished concrete floors were the most durable and attractive materials to utilize in the LiUNA training facility. It looks great and functions beautifully.”

But there will be no rest for the ESA team and associated contractors. Design plans for a third training building have begun in anticipation of future expansion for LiUNA. Technology-driven advances in design and building materials will assure an ongoing partnership between the ESA design team and the professionals at Echelon Masonry.

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Echelon Masonry is North America’s largest manufacturer of the highest-quality masonry products for the architectural and masonry industries. As the consolidated masonry brand for Oldcastle APG, a CRH Company, Echelon offers the widest masonry portfolio in the industry, from trusted brands like Trenwyth to innovative product solutions like the InsulTech® System, as well as the localized, one-on-one support needed to bring the most ambitious projects to life. Since 2015, Echelon Masonry has been committed to supporting the time-honored tradition of masonry and advancing the craft for the 21st century and beyond.