Local 265 Shares SMART Expertise With Building Inspectors

Published: September 20, 2013

illinois building inspectorsEvery two years, Local 265 in Carol Stream, IL, offers the Building Inspector Program, a day-long course that teaches building inspectors how to better inspect HVAC systems. This year, the demand was so great that Local 265 offered the eight-hour course four days in a row, educating about 100 building inspectors in HVAC basics. “The turn-out was phenomenal,” said Dennis Moran, Local 265 Director of Training. “It’s amazing. We were getting party crashers, people from other counties” outside of Local 265’s area.

The main goal of the course is to teach building inspectors how to properly evaluate HVAC systems for structural integrity. The program was started in 1994 in order to help inspectors do their jobs better and was in part a community-oriented initiative. After all, building inspectors help ensure that homes and neighborhoods maintain their value.

However, due to the demands of the job, the average building inspector is often, as Moran put it, “a jack of all trades and master of none.” The inspectors in the Local 265 area might be electricians, plumbers, or fire fighters. Typically, they are not sheet metal workers, so they are largely unfamiliar with duct design principles. Consequently, inspectors jump at the chance to address this gap in their knowledge: “All these building inspectors are dying for training,” Moran emphasized. As an added incentive, the Building Inspector Program also counts as continuing education units (CEUs), a requirement for many building inspectors to maintain their certification.

As for the course itself, Moran summed up its focus this way: “We’re not teaching them code. They know the code. We don’t. But we know heating and air conditioning.” Moran and his fellow Local 265 instructors Joseph Carone, Tim Donovan, and David St. Peter have taken the base Building Inspector Program (BIP) offered by iTi and adapted it to the needs of their course. What they have produced is a hands-on learning experience that provides participants with a primer on HVAC basics and gives them a chance to get their hands a little dirty. Participants find out about duct design, airflow, proper fittings, and load calculations—and they get to experience a duct blaster and a door blower test. Furthermore, they learn how to identify good and bad sheet metal construction through a physical comparison of different duct elements, like corners.

The team spends time educating participants about “good, better, and best” duct design, especially when it comes to energy consumption. Uninformed building inspectors can overlook duct design as a source of energy efficiency, so taking the time to inform them is crucial. Local 265’s training emphasizes that “better and best” duct design is ideal.

The training team also invites outside speakers to come in and discuss different elements of the sheet metal industry. This year, Jack Lagershausen from the Air Diffusion Council, which promotes the use of flex duct, presented on flex duct and duct connectors. Wally Kurzeja from Air Products Equipment Company, a local sheet metal supplier, discussed elements of Fire Life Safety systems, such as fire damper installation and inspection, as well as new designs and installation techniques. At the end of the course, participants get a complimentary handbook and a certificate of achievement. What Local 265 gets in return for its efforts are building inspectors who become walking, talking advertisements for SMART training and union expertise. “This is excellent PR for [the union],” said Moran. “We show them what we train our people with, and they love it.”

Indeed, comments from course participants demonstrate how impressed they are with the training. “Excellent presentation, learned something from every speaker “ and “very informative and worthwhile, great job!” are just a selection of the extremely positive feedback that the Local 265 training team receives. Some participants even call the course “better than the ICC” (the International Code Council) and praise the practical application aspect of the course: “Finally some practical knowledge about the codes. The demonstrations were very helpful.”

However, what really pleases Moran and his fellow instructors the most is when building inspectors contact them for guidance on the codes. “Usually, for four months [following the course], building inspectors, when they’re not sure of something, they’ll call us. They know we’re well-trained and knowledgeable,” Moran said. This is a tremendous validation of SMART expertise. The building inspectors are often the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) on a site, and they choose to contact Local 265 when they have questions. As Moran says, “These building officials know where they should go for the best opinion when they’re out in the field.”

For more information on the Building Inspector Program, please contact Dennis Moran at Dennis@smw265.org