Mass General Hospital expansion project Boston

Cannistraro in it for the long haul at MGH

Boston is known as a hub for medical care, and Mass General Hospital is among the city’s crown jewels. Serving the community and beyond for more than 200 years, the Harvard Medical School teaching hospital is acknowledged as one of the world’s finest healthcare facilities. Over the past three decades, MGH has been thoughtfully expanding and modernizing its campus, and has chosen Cannistraro as the plumbing subcontractor of record since construction of the Blake tower in 1990.

The GBPCA contractor is back on board for the hospital’s latest expansion, a project that is so major, it started last year and will keep Cannistraro and the Local 12 plumbers on its team busy through 2030. Valued at $2 billion and encompassing more than 1.5 million square feet, the state-of-the-art clinical care complex will include two towers perched above an underground garage along Cambridge Street.

In responding to the hospital’s RFP, the company presented a multi-year plan showcasing its leadership depth to manage the manifold and far-reaching project, according to its president, John Cannistraro Jr.

“We’ve never had a project that’s spanned so many years before,” he says. “But based on our long history with MGH and our demonstrated succession plan for future leaders, working with them for the long term is a perfect fit.”

The project will be built in phases, with the first phase focused on the creation of the six-level, below-grade garage and the erection of a 12-story inpatient tower. Those are scheduled to open in 2027. During the second phase, the existing above-ground Parkman Garage will be demolished, and the second tower, at 13 stories, will be built. That building is slated to open in 2030. The towers will be the new homes of the hospital’s cancer and heart centers. They will also include 482 single-bed inpatient rooms, 23 operating rooms, 100 infusion bays, and 120 exam rooms.

“This building will be the most important Mass General constructs in our history–perhaps only second to our original Bulfinch building dating back to 1811,” says Dr. David Brown, MGH’s president. “It will create the environment our staff need, and our patients deserve.”

A joint project that both Turner Construction Company and Walsh Brothers are managing, the Cannistraro team has been working on coordination with the two general contractors for about a year.

“We’re getting risers up through shafts. We’re getting in there with other trades and using the 3D Revit program [BIM software] to make sure that pipes, ducts, and electrical all fit together,” says Jim Fitzgerald, Cannistraro’s plumbing pre-construction manager for the MGH project. The Local 12 member explains that getting subcontractors in early and having them participate in the design work helps make sure that everything will be in harmony before fit outs start. “You can eliminate the headaches, hassles, and hiccups down the road.”

It’s a business model that is gaining acceptance, largely because it embraces efficiency, Fitzgerald notes. By drawing everything out in advance, Cannistraro can take hours from the field and move them into its prefabrication facility. “The building process can go much more smoothly,” he adds.

For example, the plumbing contractor is assembling medical gas headwall units at its fabrication shop in the Seaport District. Local 12 mechanics are installing the medical gas piping alongside electricians that are providing the wiring and drywall carpenters that are building out the units. Fitzgerald says that bringing multiple trades together to work with each other during preconstruction is a relatively new concept. He adds that they are fortunate to have large openings in the buildings to accommodate the bulky units.

They’ve spent a good part of their careers at MGH

Fitzgerald has been working for Cannistraro for more than 30 years, much of it spent working on MGH projects. In the early 2000s, he was the general foreman for the hospital’s Yawkey Center, a large two-tower facility. Ten years later, he oversaw the subcontractor’s team working on MGH’s Lunder building. Following that, Fitzgerald was the lead coordinator for fabrication on Spaulding Rehabilitation’s new campus in Charlestown, which is part of the MassGeneral Brigham network.

“It means a lot to me,” he says. “I’ve been a patient at Mass General, my family has been there, I have relatives who work there. The fact that I’ve helped build it kind of hits home.”

Kenneth Reagan, VP for business development and special projects, has also worked for Cannistraro for more than 30 years and has spent even more time at MGH. Since 1989, he has mostly focused on special projects, such as room and floor renovations, with a crew of six to ten Local 12 plumbers. For example, he is now overseeing an upgrade to the entire hospital’s bulk oxygen that includes a separate tank plant and separate piping system. Spanning about four years, the huge undertaking will essentially provide a backup oxygen distribution system for the medical facility. It’s indicative, Reagan notes, of the hospital’s forward thinking and commitment to innovation.

“When I look at MGH, it’s so far ahead,” he says. “It is the first on to jump on new technology. It’s always at the forefront with the most advanced facilities.”

It is also a stickler for details. Early in his career, John Cannistraro remembers working as a project manager for the Blake Tower. While preparing the submittals for the job, he learned that the hospital required information down to the last nut and washer.

“They looked at every page and stamped them,” John recalls about the 200-page-long document. “I was proud of that, because it was an attention to detail that has always stuck with me. It was important to MGH; it was important to me.” It helped forge a long-term relationship with the hospital that remains strong. “It brings me tremendous joy to have built this reputation at MGH.”

Creating a 96-hour island

Over the course of the contractor’s long partnership with the world-class hospital, the plumbing systems, and the work that Local 12 plumbers perform, have remained more or less the same. But, the processes have changed. For one, fabrication, driven by building information modeling, has become much more prevalent. Always on the cutting edge, the hospital itself has become more complex.

For instance, the current MGH project includes provisions for the new buildings to enter 96-hour island mode. Should there be catastrophic weather or some other disaster that results in the loss of power, water, utilities, or sewer, the buildings would remain self-sufficient for four days. The patient rooms, operating suites, and all of the other hospital’s functions could continue unimpeded, thereby providing a haven for an especially vulnerable population.

“We’ve never seen anything like this to this degree,” Fitzgerald says, noting that MGH is considering climate change, sea level rise and storm surge, terrorism threats, high winds, and other modern-day factors in its wide-ranging plans. “These buildings are being designed to 2070 standards,” he adds.

There will be ten 7,500-gallon domestic water tanks in the lower level of the new garage. Additionally, Cannistraro will be installing four 10,000-gallon emergency sanitary tanks in the underground of the garage along with piping and valves to divert water to them, if necessary.

“I look at this project as being groundbreaking for the modernization of hospitals,” Reagan notes.

Given the long time frame, Reagan and Fitzgerald will most likely be retired before the MGH project finishes. However, they are training and teaching the men and women who will succeed them. When it wraps in 2030, they will be able to look at the new buildings, and the many other projects on which they worked at the hospital, with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Along with the many Local 12 plumbers who have worked on Cannistraro crews at MGH, they will know that they helped make possible the renowned, exemplary care the hospital provides.

Massachusetts plumbing code book

Code red: Support the state’s plumbing code

Sign the petition to preserve the state’s plumbing code

Massachusetts’ plumbing code dates back many decades and is one of a handful of statewide codes that remains in effect. It has served–and continues to serve–the industry along with the Commonwealth’s residents who rely on safe plumbing well and has widespread support. The code serves as a model and is a point of pride for the state’s plumbing board and the plumbers who operate under it.

An outside organization, however, is threatening to replace the homegrown framework with its own code. This has outraged plumbers across the state and has caused them to rally against the effort. Local 12 and the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association (GBPCA) have joined forces with many other industry partners to defeat the takeover attempt. The broad coalition has developed a petition to support the Massachusetts plumbing code and urges all plumbers as well as everyone in the state who cares about the trade to sign it. You can help by going to the site,

The International Code Council (ICC), one of two organizations that publishes national plumbing codes, has been aggressively trying to get states to adopt its code. It recently targeted New Jersey.

“ICC marched in and tried to convince the state to switch to its code,” says Peter Kelly, regional field manager for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). ”New Jersey’s plumbing industry wasn’t having any of it.”

IAPMO offers the Uniform Plumbing Code and the National Standard Plumbing Code, also known as the New Jersey Plumbing Code. While the association oversees it, the Garden State’s plumbers consider it as their code. By banding together, the industry was able to thwart ICC and retained New Jersey’s existing code. According to Kelly, IAPMO helped develop a Web site to support the opposition efforts. 

He says that the association has always supported Massachusetts’ code, and has offered its support by creating, which is modeled after the site for the New Jersey campaign. Kelly credits Chris Costa, president of the Bristol County Plumbing Gas Inspectors Association, for organizing the opposition efforts and coming up with the plan to create an online petition and Web site.

This isn’t the first time that ICC has pitched its code to the Commonwealth. A number of years ago it approached the state’s plumbing board, but was rejected by then-chairman Paul Kennedy.

“They went behind Paul’s back to the governor’s office, which ordered the board to allow ICC to present its case,” says Wayne Thomas, executive director of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors of Massachusetts (PHCC). Ultimately, the board stuck with the state’s code. Now it is back in the state trying to replace the code with its own. “It’s sparking outrage,” Thomas adds. “It’s time to go on the offensive.”

The Massachusetts code was created long before model codes existed and has been steadily updated over the years. It is more restrictive and safer than the national codes. It is also tied into the state’s plumbing and gasfitting license and its training and education requirements. 

“Massachusetts has the finest plumbing code in the country,” says Andrew DeAngelo, GBPCA executive director, adding that its high standards are one of the chief reasons the state has some of the best drinking water in the U.S. “Codes are made for a reason. Strict codes are a good thing.”

Thomas says Massachusetts is one of the only states with such a comprehensive system in place and that replacing the code might jeopardize the licensing and curriculum as well, not to mention people’s health.

“We are an old state with an old infrastructure and unique needs,” Thomas notes. “We’ve had a code that’s worked for a long, long time.”

“The whole industry would be affected,” adds Kelly, should ICC get its way. Everyone would have to learn a new code, the inspectors would have to be re-educated, and the exam would need to be updated. “It would be a snowball effect.”

The online petition at has generated thousands of supporters, but its organizers are hoping to gather many more signatures. They encourage plumbers to show their support and help spread the word.

“Union and non-union sectors certainly have their differences,” Kelly says. “But when it comes to something like the plumbing code, they are united. It’s unilateral support.”

“For an outside group to come in and weaken our code in the name of making money is immoral,” adds DeAngelo. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–especially this.”

Fossil fuels ban would strain power grid

Electrification alone would not curb emissions

Climate change is real. We need to cut emissions and get on a path to net zero. Those are points on which the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association and Plumbers Local 12 along with building, labor, business, and other organizations in the state agree. There is disagreement, however, about the ways which the Commonwealth should achieve a renewable energy future.

One such area of disagreement is the fossil fuel ban that is part of the state’s climate law that was introduced and passed last year. It includes a provision for a pilot program that allows 10 communities to prohibit fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations. Restricting gas and oil and moving to alternatives such as electric heat pumps for heating and cooling would place tremendous pressure on the region’s power grid–which, in turn, is largely powered by fossil fuels and would therefore do little to address the state’s sustainability goals. The ban would also have a number of other negative consequences, including an increase in the cost of energy for residents who can least afford it and higher construction costs, which would hamper development.

“We shouldn’t just be increasing our reliance on electricity and shutting off gas at the same time,” says Tim Fandel, Local 12’s business manager. “We would be eliminating one source of energy without the ability to replace it. It defies common sense. It is, in my opinion, a reckless approach.”

Brookline first passed a similar ban in 2019, but it was deemed unconstitutional by then-Attorney General Maura Healey. Other municipalities tried to follow suit, which were also considered unlawful.

The climate law requires communities to get local approval and file a “home rule petition” seeking special permission from the legislature to participate in the pilot program. Thanks to pushback from the building trades and their partners, the program includes carve-outs, or compromises. Health care, life science, and biotech construction projects, for example, would be exempt from any fossil fuels ban. These buildings require massive amounts of energy and would need considerable electricity in the absence of gas. Also, participating municipalities would have to guarantee that 10% of its housing stock be affordable as defined by the state’s Chapter 40B statute. This concession from the state would help protect some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens from the effects of the ban.

The cities and towns that are vying to participate in the program include Cambridge, Brookline Newton, Lexington, Arlington, Concord, Lincoln, Acton, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury. The Martha’s Vineyard town of West Tisbury has since withdrawn from the program because it does not meet the affordable housing requirement. Boston and Somerville are among the cities hoping to take its place. The state’s Department of Energy Resources is supposed to issue regulations and details about the program, such as what constitutes a “major” renovation and how to best protect affordable housing, by July. The participating communities would then start the two-year pilot later this year or in early 2024.

As critics have pointed out, many of the municipalities hoping to join the program are comparatively wealthy and don’t represent a cross-section of the state. It’s one thing to impose a fossil fuels ban on single-family homes in a well-off suburb. Bringing Boston into the equation, with its mix of housing and economic diversity, would test the viability of the program, however.

All-electric buildings add about 20% to construction costs, which are then passed on to homeowners and landlords (who subsequently would pass it on to their tenants). In a region that is already plagued by high real estate prices and rents, that’s a challenging proposition. In fact, it is so worrisome, Governor Baker was considering vetoing the climate bill. He was concerned about the gas ban’s impact on affordable housing, something the state desperately needs. The increased cost of construction would make communities that prohibit fossil fuels less desirable to developers that build affordable housing.

Even after he signed the bill, the governor had misgivings. “I’ve thought for a long time that the cost and supply of housing in Massachusetts is, in fact, one of our most existential threats,” Baker told the Boston Globe when discussing the pilot program.

Forced to use heat pumps and other electrical appliances, homeowners and renters would then have to contend with significantly higher energy costs. The state has one of the nation’s highest electric utility rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, households in Boston, Cambridge, and Newton paid 75.3% more for electricity than the U.S. average as of October 2022.

“Heat prices would soar if working families in neighborhoods like Dorchester, Mattapan or towns like Lawrence or Lynn have to heat their homes with electricity,” says Andrew DeAngelo, GBPCA executive director. “The gas ban raises issues of economic equity.”

Banning gas in buildings would shift the energy burden to the electrical grid. But how is electricity generated?

“Gas and nuclear are the lion’s share of the grid’s resources,” says Local 12’s Fandel. “That inconvenient truth seems to get lost in translation. The disconnect is frustrating.”

ISO New England, the independent, not-for-profit corporation responsible for keeping electricity flowing across the region reports that in 2022 gas accounted for 52% of the electricity generated in Massachusetts and its neighboring states. Combined with nuclear, the two sources were responsible for nearly 80% of the grid’s total output. Oil and coal were also part of the mix. Wind and solar generated just 7% of the region’s electricity needs.

“Electricity is great. But it’s not 100% clean energy,” notes DeAngelo. “We simply don’t have enough wind and solar to support the state’s electrical demands.”

By banning fossil fuels in construction, that would increase demand for electricity and likely increase the need to fire up the state’s peaker power plants, most of which are old and inefficient and burn oil. They generate high rates of greenhouse gases and pollutant emissions for every unit of electricity generated.

So, what’s the solution? DeAngelo thinks we need to be open minded and take a more pragmatic approach. Hydroelectric power could play a greater role, for example. We should also explore alternatives such as green hydrogen, which is 100% zero-carbon emitting.

“We don’t think it’s prudent to abandon the pipe infrastructure,” DeAngelo adds. “It can be an important piece of the puzzle in our transition to clean energy.”

Josiah Quincy Upper School Boston

New school takes shape in Boston’s Chinatown

A topping off ceremony was held in December for the Josiah Quincy Upper School project under construction on Washington Street in Chinatown. On track to open in September 2024, the six-story, 185,000-square-foot building will welcome 650 students in grades 6 through 12. Turner Construction is the general contractor for the $170-million job, and GBPCA contractor PJ Kennedy & Sons is handling the plumbing and HVAC.

When The Pipeline visited the construction site, Gene Moscone, PJ Kennedy’s foreman for the project, showed an oil/water separator his crew had installed adjacent to a sump pump at the base of the building’s elevators.

“I’ve never done a separator like that inside a building before,” said Moscone, who has been a Local 12 member for more than 30 years. “It’s unusual.”

Bob Collins, project manager with PJ Kennedy, explained that the project also includes an in-ground rainwater infiltration system. It will distribute water from the roof’s drain storm piping system.

“We installed approximately 2,000 feet of 12-inch PVC Schedule 40 pipe,” he said. “We pre-drilled out the pipes’ holes at our prefab shop in Dorchester.”

PJ Kennedy & Sons plumbing Boston Josiah Quincy Upper School
The PJ Kennedy & Sons crew installs a leeching system for the Josiah Quincy Upper School project.

Located in a densely populated neighborhood, the compact, one-acre site could not accommodate any outdoor space at the ground level. Designed by HMFH Architects, the building will include an outdoor classroom, activity complex, and gardens on its roof where students and faculty will be able to get some fresh air. Other amenities will include an auditorium, a black box theater, a media center, a cafeteria, and a gymnasium.

The school’s designers also considered the site’s close proximity to the Southeast Expressway and the Mass. Pike, and the highways’ impact on the building’s indoor environment. The project includes an advanced displacement ventilation system with high-performance filters and rooftop air handlers to maximize the air quality.

According to Mike Pirrello, superintendent with Turner Construction, the building has some other unique design aspects that make it a challenging build.

“For a shorter building, it has complex steel,” he says. “There’s a big cantilever at the auditorium and another at the gymnasium with a three-story truss supporting them.”

There are structural constraints imposed by the way the truss system works in the building, Pirrello explains. The crew will be pouring concrete from the first floor through the third-floor level, and then waiting until the building is fully erected to pour the roof concrete.

“The roof concrete will engage the truss system within the building,” he says. “Then we can go back and load the other floors.”

A long time in development, plans for the Josiah Quincy school go back to Mayor Tom Menino and have spanned three administrations, Moscone notes. It is one of the biggest ground-up public buildings that the city has erected in many years.

The Residences at Ashlar Park Quincy T. Sullivan Mechanical

Plumbing is a fitting career for him


Growing up as the youngest of five brothers, Tim Sullivan could often be found tinkering with cars and other projects along with his siblings and his father. Even as a youngster, he says that he loved working with his hands. But it wasn’t until he began visiting the yard at P.V. Sullivan as a child that he started to learn about plumbing.

He would sometimes pull fittings for the plumbing, heating, and HVAC supply shop that was started by his uncle, Paul Sullivan, in 1968. The company grew to become one of the largest industry wholesalers in New England. Tim’s father, Dan, later joined his brother as a partner at P.V. Sullivan. While in high school, Tim worked weekends at the supply house stocking fittings, piping, and other items.

In college, he studied business, although Tim says that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with the degree. During summer breaks, he continued to work at P.V. Sullivan. Still unsure of his career path after graduating, his father suggested that he investigate the other side of the industry and consider becoming a plumber.

He was able to get an apprenticeship with Local 12 and worked for Crane Plumbing and Heating. The first project Tim worked on for the contractor was at Boston Children’s Hospital. He says that he enjoyed the trade from the start and worked on other hospital jobs in the Longwood Medical Area as well as prisons such as the Norfolk County Correctional Center in Dedham. After getting his journeyman license, Tim worked for a few years with GBPCA contractor E.M. Duggan on projects such as the John J. Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston.

But his entrepreneurial spirit, which helped to fuel his pursuit of a business degree, made him restless.

“I wasn’t satisfied going to work for somebody else every day,” Tim says. “I always wanted to do more and made a decision to start my own plumbing company.”

Opened in 2001, T. Sullivan Mechanical began in Hanover as a one-person shop. Focusing at first on residential work and service, Tim built the business, diversifying into new construction for multi-residential projects and dabbling in hospital, healthcare, and lab work. He also did a lot of work at malls such as Legacy Place in Dedham and Patriot Place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

At first, T. Sullivan Mechanical was an open shop. But about three years after he started the business, Tim signed with Local 12.

“The skill level of Local 12 members is completely different from non-union plumbers,” he says, adding that the quality of the work his shop can offer as well as the time it takes to complete projects improved dramatically once he affiliated with the union. Additionally, Tim says that having access to Local 12’s pool of members makes it easy for him to staff up and downsize as needed based on the projects he secures.

Unions have long been an important part of his life. Before he joined P.V. Sullivan, Tim’s father was a member of Bricklayers Local 3. His oldest brother belongs to Pipefitters Local 537 in Boston. While a couple of his other brothers as well as family members work at P.V. Sullivan, Tim is the only one working in the trade as a plumber.

Over the past decade, T. Sullivan Mechanical has returned to its roots and has been working on a number of multi-residential projects, most of which are mid-rise, wood frame properties.

“We go where the market is, and for the last few years, that’s been apartment and condo complexes,” Tim says.

For example, the contractor is currently working on Ahslar Park, a five-building property in Quincy that will include 465 apartments and an underground garage with 590 parking spaces. Built on the site of the former Quincy Medical Center, one of the hospital’s original buildings is being renovated into a community center with a fitness studio, club room, pool, meeting spaces, a bistro, and other amenities. With a total construction cost of $128.7 million and spanning over 440,000 square feet, the job will take about 40 Local 12 plumbers and apprentices to complete.

“Residential is something we like to do,” Tim says. “It’s what we are good at.”

But, he adds, he still bids on other work such as a warehouse in Plympton for Sysco, the largest food distributor in New England, and a tenant fit out for restaurants and storefronts in the Seaport District.

“It’s important for us to remain nimble so we can get work and remain busy,” says Tim.

Plumbers donate services and materials to Somerville school


When Saint Theresa’s Catholic School, which was founded in 1923, wanted to update its aging bathrooms, Local 12 and the GBPCA answered the call. The union’s members provided the labor for the remodeling project, and the contractor group donated the fixtures and the materials.

According to Rick Carter, director of Local 12’s training center, the crew for the project was mostly first-year apprentices. As he explains, it’s great to be able to help a needy organization, but the project was also a wonderful learning experience for the new apprentices. Because they were retrofitting and demoing the existing bathrooms, it offered a rare opportunity for them to see and work with older fixtures, piping, and materials.

“The great thing about doing a job where we are donating our time is that there is a lot less stress. The deadlines are often less strict,” Carter notes. “The journeymen aren’t under the gun either, so they can take the time to really watch over the apprentices and make it educational.”

The project included the replacement of 16 toilets and 2 sinks in the girls’ bathroom as well as 8 toilets, 8 urinals, and 2 sinks in the boys’ bathroom. The work was done off hours on Saturdays. Business agents Jim Vaughan and Frank Amato helped oversee the project.

The Somerville school serves students in pre-K through grade 8. Its diverse mix of students are from Somerville, Medford, Cambridge, Everett, Arlington, and other surrounding communities. Saint Theresa’s also operates an after-school program.

“This was a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Amato says. “Our membership is always looking for ways to help out.”

Amato elected business agent

Last year, Plumbers Local 12 members elected Frank Amato to serve as one of the union’s business agents. He is no stranger to the local, however. For the past five years, Amato has focused on organizing as the director of business development and recruitment.

A plumber since 1989, the business agent wasn’t always a Local 12 member. As a high school student enrolled in his town’s vocational technical program, one of his instructors told his class that unions were terrible. The impressionable teen believed the falsehoods. After graduating, Amato worked for some non-union plumbing and heating shops and later established his own plumbing business in partnership with his brother.

It was Joe Ferraro, his future father-in-law and a member of Operating Engineers Local 4, who set him straight about unions and encouraged him to apply to Local 12. Once he joined and understood the financial security, the benefits, the training, the fellowship, and other advantages that the local provided, Amato became an evangelist for the organization.

“I appreciated how much Local 12 had helped me and saw what it meant to other members,” he says. “I thought how great it would be to get the word out to non-union plumbers–to share my story and to dispel the myths and misrepresentations.”

That led him to the organizing position. Now, Amato says he hopes that he can serve as an example of the opportunities available to members.

“That’s one of the reasons I ran for business agent,” he says. “I saw an opportunity and I wanted to give back to the union that’s done so much for me and my family.”

In addition to representing projects and Local 12 business in parts of Boston, Amato is also focused on areas outside of the city. For example, he oversees the Plumbers 911 program, which connects homeowners and small businesses throughout the region with Local 12-affiliated plumbing contractors. And he was elected to be the president of the Merrimack Valley Building Trades.

“By helping the building trades deal with issues and developing relationships with general contractors and politicians, I feel that I can help secure more jobs for Local 12 members,” Amato says.

“It’s great to have Frank on our business agent team,” says Tim Fandel, the local’s business manager. “He brings a lot of experience as well as a lot of passion to the position. We are fortunate to have him.”

Lab space record set in Boston

There seems to be an insatiable demand for lab space in the Boston area. In fact, according to Bloomberg, the region now has more biotech projects under construction than anyplace else in the country and will likely soon top the San Francisco Bay Area for bragging rights as America’s life sciences hub.

When the article was published in the spring, the Boston metropolitan area had 32 million square feet of life-sciences space, just slightly behind its West Coast counterpart. However, Boston had a staggering 62 million square feet under construction or proposed, a figure that dwarfs the Bay Area.

There are many factors underpinning the construction boom, including the region’s renowned universities and hospitals, its existing infrastructure of major pharmaceutical companies, its history of biotech startups, its young, well-educated workforce, and its longstanding reputation as a hotbed for research, science, medicine, and innovation.

The multitude of projects have been a boon for the Boston building trades and for plumbers in particular. The technically complex projects require lots of plumbing–much more than office buildings, residential complexes, and other types of jobs.
With the high demand for biotech, and the uncertainty about office space in a post-pandemic, remote work-savvy, recession-wary world, many developers are rethinking office buildings and reconfiguring them into life science spaces. For example, 10 World Trade in the Seaport was first envisioned as 585,000 square feet of office space. When its owner, Boston Global Investors, lost its financing, it added some floors devoted to lab space and was able to get the project back on track.

Can the boom continue unabated? Will the demand wane? Will a wobbly economy derail the sector? It’s hard to predict the future, but even with so many projects in the pipeline, there appears to be no end in sight. Regardless of what happens, Boston remains poised to take the crown as the lab space capital.

Four decades without a leak

John Cannistraro Jr., president of the company that his father founded in 1963, is proud of the mechanical contractor’s long history in Greater Boston.

“The great crews that Local 12 provides is what makes everything possible,” he says. “The quality and workmanship are the absolute highest.”

To illustrate the point, Cannistraro says that he was recently at a dinner party and met the owner of M.S. Walker, the locally based alcoholic beverages producer and bottler. He told the gentleman that his family business is in plumbing and that as a teenager in the 70s, he delivered plumbing materials and stock to the spirits company’s new plant in Somerville.

“He said, ‘That was you?’ ” Cannistraro notes, adding that the person got excited and broke into a grin. The gentlemen explained that M.S. Walker is also a family business, and his father, who is now 90 years old, always talks about the plumber whose name began with an “H” on that job and how he was the best mechanic he’d ever known.

“In the 40 years of operation,” the owner told Cannistraro, “we didn’t have one leak.”

“It was Hank Fandel,” Cannistraro replied, citing the skills of the retired Local 12 member. “To sustain excellence in the industry, we see it as our mission to mentor the next generation of craftspeople,” he adds.

Farewell from The Pipeline’s editor

For the past 25 years, I’ve had the honor of writing, editing, and producing The Pipeline. Now it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.

It has been a wonderful experience working alongside the folks from Plumbers Local 12 and the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association. I hope you have enjoyed reading about their work as much as I have enjoyed sharing their stories. What has impressed me from the start is the great rapport the two organizations have with one another. They may not always agree about everything, but, despite the conventional wisdom about labor and management relations, they have always been respectful, professional, and open to compromise. That is a testament to both groups’ level-headed leadership through the years and up to the present day. They understand and appreciate the symbiotic nature of their partnership, and they have a shared sense of destiny and purpose.

My grandfather was a plumber, so it has been particularly joyful for me to learn more about the profession. I have been onsite at small, residential projects as well as huge high-rise buildings under construction. It has all been fascinating and illustrative of the vital role that plumbers play.

While I will no longer be producing the Pipeline, I am not retiring from writing altogether. I will continue to travel around the country and the world covering theme parks and attractions. It doesn’t have anything to do with the budling trades, but if you are interested in topics such as Disney World and roller coasters, consider subscribing to my free email newsletter at

I look forward to reading about the plumbers in future issues of The Pipeline, and I wish my friends and colleagues at Local 12 and the GBPCA–as well as you–all the best.

– Arthur Levine