New Jersey’s Local 27 unveils new testing, adjusting, balancing lab

Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 27 in central and southern New Jersey will now have access to their own testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) lab, the 23rd such lab to be accredited among the more than 140 training centers in the country. It has been a lengthy process, but completion of the project will benefit members for years to come.

The TAB lab comprises a 10,000-square-foot space at the local’s training center with pipes, ductwork and equipment needed to run members through the various parts of a hands-on practical performance examination for certification in the TAB field. This includes thermostats, valves, variable air volume (VAV) boxes, boilers, chillers, pneumatic thermostats, diffusers, registers, pumps and motors. First, apprentices and journeypersons must take the 100-question online exam offered by the International Certification Board (ICB). After passing this online exam, members can schedule time to take the ICB’s practical TAB exam in the accredited lab.

The first exam at Local 27’s TAB lab was held Jan. 27-29, administered by the ICB and the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB). The lab was accredited by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry.

For union members whose local does not have an ITI-accredited lab, they can gain access to this new lab or one of the others in the country by first taking the online exam and then working with the ICB to schedule a practical performance exam at an accredited lab available to them.

Local 27’s new lab can accommodate six individuals per day for testing, and scheduling is based on a first-come, first-served basis.

“I welcome helping anyone out to get more of our union sheet metal workers to be certified TABB technicians,” said Andy Caccholi, recently retired Local 27 business manager and main supporter of the initiative.

Work on the TAB lab in Farmingdale, New Jersey, began in earnest back in August 2018, though the duct work had begun prior to that. The planning stages go back much further than the years-long process of building it. Caccholi was the training coordinator for 25 years prior to stepping into his current role of business manager.

“I had always wanted a TAB lab. It just never got completed,” he said. “When John Espinos came on — a great instructor and training coordinator — he took the project on and brought it to the stage of completion.”

“Local 27 aggressively pursued having an ITI-accredited TAB lab,” added Darrell Garrison, TAB specialist at the ITI. “So, just over a year ago, we started putting it all together. It’s really awesome to see the local having their first official TAB certification exam in their new lab.”

The lab contains all necessary components to allow apprentices and journeypersons at Local 27 to work the air and water sides of a duct and pipe system. This allows hands-on learning about duct leak testing, the design and function of a duct system, and identification of the different parts of a duct system, as well as the measuring equipment involved, such as velocity probes, capture hoods and wrist reporters. A relatively new device Espinos compared to an Apple Watch for air balancers, these wrist reporters allow a technician to keep track of real-time measurements in one part of a system while remaining mobile to adjust other parts of a system.

A generous grant from Evergreen Telemetry supplied Local 27 with these instruments, which make up part of a complete air-side and water-side balancing kit, a $12,000 value. Fluke, another manufacturer of precision measurement tools, donated roughly $20,000 in instruments. Local 27’s signatory contractors Vincent Spiezio from Mid-Atlantic Mechanical; Richard Bonner from Big B Contracting; and Gerald Hogan III from Gerard Sheet Metal donated material and labor for all the pipe work that went into the hydronic side of the lab. Caccholi also wished to thank the Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Central and Southern New Jersey and the training center, which helped tremendously in putting the lab together.

For Local 27, all the hard work was necessary to accomplish a project in the planning stages for years. The need for the lab never waned, Espinos said.

“We need an accredited TAB lab to be able to provide our TAB contractors with qualified, trained individuals to go out on jobs,” he added.

For example, any urban environment will have buildings that have complex air balancing needs, but the casinos in Atlantic City — which contractors in New Jersey serve — provide the added challenge of rows upon rows of gaming consoles packed into large indoor spaces where people frequently enter and exit.

“Computers and machines like the ones in casinos cause temperature differences that need to be adjusted for, so we can make sure those areas are brought into comfort levels,” Espinos added.

The entire team at Local 27 has taken pride in the final completion of the TAB lab. Espinos gives credit to the local’s business manager, Caccholi, and said it could not have been done without the help of Garrison from the ITI and local TAB instructors Craig Karnowski and John Csizmar Jr., as well as Corey Mauger, who provided the shop drawings for the lab.

“It’s been a lot of work — it’s a very costly and detailed process — but it’s well worth it,” Espinos said. “I’ll be honest, I learned a lot from this. I came from a very strong industrial background, a welding background, and I did not initially know much of the TAB end of the business. While going through this exercise, I learned a lot and gained a great amount of respect for this end of the industry — the amount of work and detail it requires. Sometimes that’s taken for granted. This was an eye opener for me.”

Apprentices receive college-accredited training in AutoCAD, air balancing, refrigeration/service, welding and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) design, fabrication and installation. While they are learning in the classroom, they are gaining skills on the job site including installation of architectural sheet metal, kitchen equipment and duct for heating and air conditioning systems in residential and commercial buildings.

The goal is for apprentices to graduate with a college degree, zero college debt and a career to last a lifetime. More than 14,000 apprentices participate in 148 training centers across the United States and Canada, learning curriculum and using the free training materials provided by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry.

For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit the website or call 703-739-7200.

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