Skilled to Work: updating the Knox College science and math center

GALESBURG, Illinois -- Work is underway to update the Umbeck Science-Mathematics building at Knox College. The addition and renovation project includes replacing nearly all of the plumbing in the existing buildings.

Local 25 plumbers and pipefitters are taking on the task, with 30-year-old journeyman plumber Blake Johnson in the middle of it all.

"There's quite a few pipes in a small place," Johnson said, looking up at the ceiling in one of the science wings.

They're replacing old galvanized steel with new K-type copper pipe to carry domestic water supply -- like the hot and cold water running through your house. Soldering copper pipe is an important plumbing skill.

"Through our hall we are taught all these processes, of cleaning the pipe, prepping the pipe and getting everything ready," said Johnson.

Johnson said he spent about a year in college himself before he decided to join the union six years ago.

"And it just didn't seem like I had a whole lot of assistance in the classes. Ever since I got my apprenticeship, it's all hands-on and there's always someone there to help you," he said.

The plumbing project at the science and mathematics center should take about a year to complete. Wing by wing it's out with the old pipe and in with the new.

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