Welcome to Plasterers Local Union 31
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Plasterers and cement masons implement green construction technologies and training.

By Gerry Ryan April 27, 2010

The Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association (OPCMIA), chartered in 1864 as the first national Building & Construction Trades Union, today represents over 45,000 plasterers and cement masons across more than 70 local unions in the U.S. and Canada.

Through national and local labor and management committees, we provide national standardized training for the plastering and cement masonry industries. The OPCMIA maintains a host of training programs designed to maximum productivity, quality, safety, and opportunity.

Every town, road, bridge, building, or any other structure that uses plaster or concrete has proven through time the importance of quality craftsmanship in the development of our nation’s infrastructure.

New green technologies and processes that improve our nation’s infrastructure, create energy-efficient new buildings, significantly improve existing building operations, and reduce our carbon footprint are being developed and implemented in the plastering and cement masonry industries.

The emergence of LEED technology and rating systems is leading architects and project specifiers to the use of these new products.

Green Construction Training

The OPCMIA is proud to meet the needs of contractors who are implementing green construction in response to the aggressive growth of green products and processes through new training curricula, developed in cooperation with our industry and with green product manufacturers, such as American Clay.

In order for both contractors and manufacturers to be successful, the entire workforce must be trained through standardized guidelines to ensure products are applied per manufacturers’ specifications to produce a consistent, high-quality result. We are working with manufacturers to ensure quality installation and end-user satisfaction, both of which are needed to transform green talk from mere concept to widespread usage.

The OPCMIA’s new programs combine traditional expert-led instruction with new media and, of course, the essential hands-on training used by craft persons for centuries to pass our trades on to each new generation.

Implementing competency-based and hybrid models reflects the latest research and methodologies for addressing strategies to accommodate varied modes of learning, particularly as they relate to adult learners, which is vital in today’s building trades.

Green Five Curricula

The new programs of the OPCMIA’s Green Five curricula will be incorporated into our existing curricula to reach approximately 5,400 students in three-year cycles across more than seventy training programs at our locals, Joint Apprenticeship & Training Centers, community colleges, and vocational/technical school locations.

The Green Five program will train plasterers on Exterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS) and American Clay and cement masons on Polished Concrete and Pervious Concrete. Both plasterers and cement masons will receive extensive training in a Green Awareness program:

  • Polished Concrete — Polished concrete conserves natural resources and replaces floor-covering systems that release chemicals harmful to the environment. Its high reflectivity reduces lighting needs and thereby conserves energy. Students will learn the role of polished concrete in green construction, the requirements of mix design, the specified flatness (F numbers) of the slab to be installed, the progression of diamond grits, and scratch patterns required to achieve a specified polish, the varieties and uses of densifiers, and the maintenance and use of the equipment used in this process.
  • Pervious Concrete — Pervious concrete is a porous, special design mix which allows water to penetrate the surface, promoting more efficient land use. It is designed to meet LEED storm water guidelines and EPA requirements. Students will learn the role of pervious concrete in green construction and in mitigating storm-water runoff from polluting waterways and aquifers, the importance of engineering compactable drain fields as sub-base, mix design and permissible mixing water, placement methods, specified void content, compaction of the concrete, and jointing and curing.
  • Exterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS) — EIFS is a lightweight, synthetic wall cladding that includes foam plastic insulation and thin synthetic coatings. The curriculum includes tools, system applications from substrate preparation, proper material mixing, hand application, spray application, adhesive application, expanded polystyrene application, primers, additives and sealers, and maintaining and repairing walls.
  • American Clay — American Clay is an integral color mineral coating that is toxin free, VOC free, and mold resistant. The curriculum includes the three application systems, substrate preparation, mixing the material, hand application, primers, additives and sealers, and maintaining and repairing walls.
  • Green Awareness Training — This program addresses the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries in energy-efficient building construction and retrofit industries; the energy efficiency assessment industry serving residential, commercial, and industrial sectors; and products manufactured using environmentally sustainable processes and materials. Program participants include construction workers, building engineers, and energy auditors as part of our outreach toward making green construction knowledge accessible to the whole of the industry.

The curriculum includes green and sustainable claddings, interior and exterior products and processes, structural and seismic retrofits, maintenance of sustainable energy-efficient buildings, and more. Key curriculum components are leadership training in green workplace auditing and train-the-trainer courses.

Growing Demand for Green Products

All industry stake holders — the OPCMIA, product manufacturers, contractor-employers, member-employees working at their trades, industry associations, and training partners — see daily not only the growing demand for green building products in existing environmental and energy efficient uses, but also an ever-expanding list of uses for these products.

We believe the full potential of these products has not yet been realized. The OPCMIA anticipates being an important part in fulfilling this potential by creating industry-leading training programs that will meet the needs of manufacturers, contractors, and consumers while increasing job opportunities.

The OPCMIA is uniquely placed to provide the training needed to make this transformation in both the plastering and cement mason trades. Our training outreach is not limited to our own apprentices and journeypersons; it extends to Job Corps Centers, One-Stop Shops, local and minority community organizations, youth services, and displaced worker services through employment offices and similar agencies.

In addition, as green technologies training is promoted throughout communities, these programs may also attract candidates who might not previously have considered jobs in construction, expanding the reach of green construction even further. The OPCMIA’s programs will provide critical training to make a positive impact on our nation’s economic well-being, from the broadest perspective on our construction industry as a whole to individual communities.

Gerry Ryan is Director of Training, Health, and Safety for the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association (OPCMIA).