Sheet metal workers educate, bring industries together to save energy, lives 

FAIRFAX, Va. – There is a gap of knowledge between professionals who design, fabricate and install duct work and the experts who inspect it after it’s in full operation. Although they work in the same world, they are very different industries with different lingo, protocol, codes and regulations. Getting these two industries to understand each other can create energy efficient buildings and save lives in case of fire.

The Building Inspectors Program, a course developed by the International Training Institute (ITI) helps to bridge the gap by breaking down walls created by their differences and increasing communication, respect and relationships between sheet metal contractors, and the building and fire inspectors.

“It’s more of an awareness class for the building inspectors, so they know what’s out there,” said Larry Lawrence, ITI instructional development specialist and field representative. “They just need to know if the systems are installed correctly.”

The program brings local building inspectors into the training center to discuss the proper installation of HVAC systems, including Fire Life Safety and how to spot improper installations of smoke and fire dampers. In a building, the HVAC system can provide a highway for smoke to spread to other rooms, and dampers serve as road blocks to keep rooms smoke free. The dampers allow valuable time for the buildings’ occupants to exit and the first responders to get inside and extinguish the fire.

The ITI trains instructors and training directors to host the Building Inspectors Program at their local training schools to educate and build relationships with the inspectors in their communities.

Tim Myres, training director at Local No. 20, plans to host the program in September in Indianapolis.

“It’s such a good tool,” Myres said. “We found out the inspectors were calling us and asking us questions. They’re trying to do their jobs, and they have questions. They’re like anyone else — they look to an expert for advice — so we do receive calls. It’s a win-win.”

The program has had success in Pennsylvania, Ohio and, most recently, in Phoenix, Arizona. Property managers, building owners, maintenance managers and anyone who has to do with the air delivery system in a building can attend the program.

In Philadelphia, the program opened the lines of communication.

“The building inspectors and the building owners didn’t realize there was so much involved in the delivery of air. That was the initial impact,” said Aldo Zambetti, field representative for the ITI and Building Inspector Program instructor. “We became the subject matter experts when they had questions. They had a resource to go to get answers.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at the 160 training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit or call 703-739-7200.

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