Spotlight on TABB Certification
Why the youngest of the testing and balancing organizations is making waves
More than 50 years ago two gentleman from Ohio had
an idea that would change the sheet metal industry.
Disheartened by the way the mechanical systems they designed worked once installed, H. Taylor Kahoe and George E. Coultas decided to look into establishing a totally independent testing and balancing agency. In 1964, thanks to their efforts and other supporters within the industry, the Associated Air Balance Council (AABC) was formed.
A lot has changed since then, thanks to major advances in technology and our understanding of energy efficiency and human safety and comfort. Other balancing organizations have also formed, including the National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), the National Comfort Institute (NCI), and the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB). Each publishes and advances procedures and standards that further define HVAC system performance measurement.
For TABB, being the new kid on the block comes with its challenges, as well as its benefits. “As TABB is the youngest of the three major testing, adjusting, and balancing firms, we sometimes see a generational pushback, due in part to misinformation,” says Duane Smith, director of certification (ICB/TABB) at The National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC), a not-for-profit organization created in 1983 and sponsored by SMART and SMACNA.
However, being relatively new means that TABB was able to learn from its predecessors, come to the table with a fresh approach, and adapt quickly to changing regulations. “A TABB contractor said it best when he told me, ‘a TABB technician understands the system from a sheet metal perspective and has had hands-on experience.’ Rather than being specialists, they understand every aspect of the job, and this means they are perfectly positioned to provide effective testing and balance,” Smith says.
Being the first and only ANSI-accredited HVAC testing, adjusting, and balancing certification program brings weight to the certification. So, too, does the fact that it conforms to ISO/IEC Standard 17024 Conformity assessment—General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons.
TABB-certified professionals are recognized as the most competent, reliable, and qualified in the HVAC industry. By specifying utilization of TABB-certified technicians, contractors, and supervisors, engineers can ensure that their customers receive a product at the highest levels of quality.
With TABB-certified technicians undergoing rigorous and ongoing training to ensure they remain up-to-date with the latest changes, there is great value to both the contractor and building owners.
“In our area, being TABB certified results in engineers’ respect,” explains Mark B. Ellis, Jr, TABB supervisor at Air Moving Equipment Company in Las Cruces, New Mexico. “We have been able to do a lot of projects simply because of the reputation of TABB.”
In fact, Ellis’ company is a perfect example of how being TABB certified opens up new windows of opportunity. Once a mechanical contracting firm, Air Moving Equipment Company now focuses on testing, balancing, and related work.
“Being TABB certified really opened up a market for us to thrive,” Ellis says. “We are now working with companies that were once our competitors. It has made everyone here better at all facets of this kind of work, not just the balancing part. It
lends you a thought process for different trades and what they do. You learn how to make things operate properly and get a broader look at the industry.”
Those who have undergone TABB certification are discovering countless opportunities. The journeyman sheet metal worker who has achieved national certification in testing, adjusting, and balancing environmental systems is at the highest level of HVAC technical skill and knowledge, and that’s not going unnoticed.
“I have apprentices who have taken the course, passed the test, and been picked up by a testing, adjusting, and balancing contractor full time almost immediately,” says Joe Frick, training coordinator at SMART Local 19 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Joe Carone, SMART Local 265 instructor, says signing up for the testing, adjusting, and balancing class was one of the best decisions he has ever made as a sheet metal worker.
“It made me a better foreman and led me to become a service technician,” he says. “Understanding airflow and pressures and how improper fittings can reduce and restrict air moving in the ductwork is an invaluable resource. Correctly installing the air delivery system will improve customer satisfaction and reduce energy consumption. It is very rewarding when you have the proper training to go into a situation and understand how to correct the issue properly.”
Carone agrees that becoming TABB certified can also lead to different career paths inside the sheet metal workers’ union and make craftspersons more valuable to the contractor.
Thomas E. Martin, president of T.H. Martin Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, and president of SMACNA-Cleveland chapter, agrees that TABB certification has gained national respect. He adds that in today’s world, where there is a greater understanding of energy-efficient HVAC systems and the cost savings involved, the benefits of being TABB certified are becoming increasingly recognized by industry professionals and the general public alike. “Testing, adjusting, and balancing is very important for comfort and to ensure equipment is running efficiently,” he says. “This results in sustainable and energy efficiency practices and helps owners meet building codes.”
In fact, so many building owners, general contractors, and facility managers are now aware of the benefits of testing, adjusting, and balancing that they are insisting that contractors be TABB-certified.
“As a company it has multiple benefits,” says Matthew S. Cole, president of Wing’s Testing and Balancing Co., Inc. “I look at people who carry individual certifications as more valuable. We were not able to do government work at a Navy base unless we could prove our technicians, supervisors, and company were TABB certified. Jobs are won primarily on price, but when all the staff are TABB certified, it will win you the job every time.”
Cole adds that it’s also a transferable certification, which means technicians can work in any state and be seen as valuable employees.
With so many benefits, why is there still hesitance about becoming TABB certified? Quite simply, perceptions and time. While training is indeed intense, it is also extremely flexible. For example, Frick says Local 19’s training center offers a testing, adjusting, and balancing program that is a night course spread over two years to provide those working full-time with the opportunity to get certified. TABB works with over 150 training centers across the country for the training of techs.
With TABB certification courses having evolved since they were first introduced, being certified is more beneficial than ever before. “Over 10 years ago, the classes and certifications went hand-in-hand,” Cole says. “TABB has moved away from that model. Now there is a separation between the training and the certification side, which is important. I’ve seen the progress as a result of certified testing, adjusting, and balancing contractors having to follow ASHRAE requirements for testing HVAC systems. The training is extremely valuable, and the certification has become much more defensible.”
For anyone considering getting TABB certification, Cole says it’s a no-brainer. “We pay into apprentice and training funds as members of the SMART union and part of those funds pay for the training program. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?”
Ellis says the initial time is well worth the return on investment. “If you are considering it, we encourage people to do it as, from our perspective, it’s the best organization to be involved with,” he says. “It’s like a brotherhood, a support network.” ▪