Why Specify AABC ?
We understand engineers of record, building owners, architects, contractors and others have questions about the various test and balance related credentials in the industry. This article is meant to establish clearly why certification by the Associated Air Balance Council (AABC) has long been considered the gold standard credential for performing high quality testing, adjusting and balancing work.
What follows is a summary of AABC’s requirements and attributes that make it the premiere testing and balancing certifying body for independent TAB agencies.
AABC was founded in 1965 by professional engineers who strongly believed that the then-new discipline of testing and balancing should be performed by qualified firms specializing in TAB, and who—by virtue of being independent of general or installing contractors, manufacturers, or design engineering firms —had no potential conflicts of interest in delivering an accurate, unbiased test and balance report for the benefit of the building/project owner.
More than 50 years later, AABC remains the only organization that mandates the strict independence of its certified firms. There is no other test and balance certification you can specify that guarantees that the company reporting on the quality and performance of an HVAC system installation didn’t also install that system. Independence is the key differentiator that has always and will always set AABC apart.
It is notable that AABC agencies take independence so seriously that they frequently contact headquarters whenever presented with projects or business opportunities that are slightly outside of their typical scopes of work as TAB agencies, just to be certain they are in compliance.
Demanding independence wouldn’t count for much however, if the organization’s technical standards weren’t also stringent. The ANSI-approved AABC National Standards for Total System Balance are the most comprehensive and widely respected in the industry.
Agency Vetting Process
Becoming a certified AABC agency is an intensive and lengthy process, typically taking a minimum of 6 months from start to finish. Most companies are in business providing test and balance services for a minimum of 2-3 years before they are able to meet the application requirements. It begins with a company submitting a highly detailed application running to hundredsof pages including personnel, instrumentation, financial and other information, as well as 10 letters of recommendation from professional
engineers and 2 comprehensive air and water balance reports and all associated documentation. The desk review of the application by the Board includes verification of independence as well as a thorough review of the TABreports to ensure that they meet AABC Standards.
If the desk review is successful, firms enter the on-site investigation stage, which include a day-long visit from an AABC technical expert who evaluates the organization’s record keeping, instrumentation and other aspects of theiroperation, and verifies their work on several in-progress or recently completed projects.
Companies who pass the on-site investigation then must have at least one qualified individual pass the test and balance engineer (TBE) examination before they can become a certified AABC agency. Those firms who are successful are then closely monitored for an additional two years to ensure their performance meets AABC standards.
It is important to note that the TBE certification is a “true” certification; you cannot simply take a class, pass a test and become certified. You must first be able to demonstrate 8 full years of test and balance field testing and evaluation experience (or 4 years’ experience for those who have bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering from an accredited university) as a prerequisite.
The 8-hour TBE exam, widely regarded as the industry’s toughest, was developed by subject matter experts according under the guidance of a professional testing consultant(called a psychometrician) to ensure that it is both rigorous and fair, and separates those who are qualified from those who are not.
AABC also has a second-level certification for technicians, and requires that all employees of certified agencies with at least 3 years of TAB experience gothrough that certification process, which also includes a comprehensive 8-hour examination on test and balance topics.
As a side note, AABC certification exams do not contain a “hands on” component, because the organization has judged that so-called “practical” exams are too often marred by subjectivity or manipulation (intentional or unintentional). We are fully confident that our lengthy, stringent written exams separate those who know the principles and practices of TAB from those who do not.
Once becoming an AABC certified firm, agencies must continue to meet the association’s requirements. Required continuing education includes attendance at AABC meetings to stay on top of the latest developments in HVAC systems and testing techniques, and writing technical papers. Certifiedindividuals must also gain a requisite number of credit-hours each cycle to maintain their certification: a minimum of 60 points (hours) every three years for TBEs and 30 points (hours) every three years for certified technicians. And, of course, certified agencies must continue to be Independent; AABC monitors any ownership or service offering changes to ensure this requirement continues to be met.
Guaranty Finally, all work by AABC firms is covered by the AABC National Performance Guaranty, which provides a mechanism for owners and engineers to provide feedback on the performance of AABC member agencies. AABC will investigate complaints and, on rare occasions when warranted, assist the certified Agency to complete the work. Contact [email protected] should you have any questions.