A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

How Many Ironworkers Does it Take to Build the Tallest Building in LA?

Editor’s note:  This is the fourth in Kollaer’s four-part series about the Wilshire Grand Center.

Ever stop and wonder who builds those tall towers around the world? Sure, we hear about the engineers or the “starchitects” but we seldom hear about the skilled work force that makes the designs a reality for the rest of us.

We have followed the series of articles by Tom Curwen in the LA Times about the new Wilshire Grand Center in downtown LA. Curwen has written an article that is particularly interesting to me, and I thought that you might learn something from it as well.

In the fifth part of the story of the 73-story tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi, Curwen focuses on the craft workers; the iron workers, tile and stone setters, the “rod busters”, concrete finishers, plumbers, electricians, glaziers and carpenters needed to build the core and shell of the Center. The article even has an interactive chart to show the number of people it takes for each month by trade to create the building. Just a snapshot of the skills needed to be able to build any building large or small.

Curwen tells the story of Otto Solis (no, not the golfer, the “rod buster”) and his fellow ironworkers as they make their way from the street level, through the safety session, “suiting up” with their 15-pound tool belts and spools of wire used to tie the reinforcing rods and “stirrups” together, to their office for the day some, 24 stories in the sky. That journey includes an elevator ride and climbing three ladders where they tie off and begin to erect the rebar cage for the next floor of the tower. This routine is never routine and will continue until the 1,100-foot tall tower is complete.

Twelve years earlier, Solis, who migrated here from Guatemala, was working maintenance for McDonald’s in Hollywood for minimum wage. After training to be an ironworker, his first job as a “rod buster” paid him $36/ hour, fulfilling a dream for Solis and his family.

Today, he is one of 218 ironworkers on the building where there are 741 total craft professionals working. Throughout the span of construction on the Wilshire Grand, there will be 1,005 curtain wall ironworkers, 978 “rod busters” working with rebar, and 438 ironworkers handling the structural steel on the site. 

I think that you will find this article as interesting as the others that Curwen has penned. Once again, we commend the LA Times, Turner Construction, Korean Air, for making this building and these articles available to you.

Oh yes, the answer to the initial question is 2,421 ironworkers are needed to build the Wilshire Center with its hotel, office building, and public space.

Photo Credit: Wilshire Grand project photos