Program teaches inspectors skills to improve quality, build rapport

Building inspectors learn from sheet metal workers who design HVAC systems

FAIRFAX, Va. – The unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry has been reaching out across the aisle to building inspectors for a decade with the Building Inspector Program. The eight-hour course allows inspectors to learn how complex HVAC systems work and gives them the knowledge they need to complete more efficient and thorough inspections. The course is sponsored by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the industry, and held at sheet metal training centers across the country, based on need.

Two of the course’s eight hours focus on hands-on training where building inspectors change fittings, test air systems, operate fire dampers and specifically learn what to look for while on an inspection.

“They can’t control everything. They’re not engineers. But they can tell when something’s wrong and require it to be fixed,” said Steve McKenzie, field staff at ITI and a long-time program instructor. “Who is going to prevent energy loss and increase efficiency for the homeowner or the building owner? The inspector.”

Building inspectors are not typically from the sheet metal trade and, therefore, don’t necessarily fully understand today’s complex HVAC systems. The program creates a comfortable atmosphere where the inspectors receive the information from the trade that designed the systems and understands it the best, McKenzie said.

“We’re not trying to teach them to do their jobs. We are trying to make their jobs easier by teaching them how to inspect today’s more complex HVAC systems,” McKenzie added. “By the end of the day, they say they’ve learned more in this class than any other before.”

In Philadelphia, building inspectors from the city as well as other entities come to the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 training center for the program. Aldo Zambetti, training coordinator at Local 19, works some Fire Life Safety training into his program, because buildings in his area were going years without their annual proper fire damper inspection.

Aside from the benefit of learning a new skill, many building inspectors can earn continuing education credits for the course, depending on the location.

“It lets them know what can be altered on a fire damper system, what you can run into and how they should be inspected,” Zambetti said. “We educate from the ground level apprentice to the head building inspector for the city of Philadelphia and show them the skills at their level. It’s really come across very well.”

Sheet metal training centers interested in hosting a Building Inspector Program in their area can contact Steve McKenzie at

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) 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 the Building Inspector Program or the ITI, visit or call 703-739-7200.

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