Logo of the ASHRAE South Africa Chapter

Our History

Portrait photograph of Russell Hattingh
Chapter Historian

While ASHRAE is not a new name in South Africa, and being an ASHRAE member is equally old news, ASHRAE has up and until now not had an active presence. So what’s the difference? Well, being an ASHRAE member for many of us meant that we could enjoy the wealth of knowledge contained in the ASHRAE volumes. But there is so much more to being part of this great institution and it is our job as the local Chapter to open up our community of engineers and professionals to all that ASHRAE can bring. Of course the volumes remain but with a local chapter we can bring about a sense of community and localized knowledge sharing and learning. So how did it all begin? In order to explain this let me first explain how ASHRAE works very briefly. We have Head Quarters in the US and in order to make the operations easier, Regions are defined (like North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, etc). Within the Region there would be Chapters. A Chapter could be an entire country but if the country is large there could be multiple chapters per country.

In 2018 our assigned Region (called Region At Large, or RAL) reached out to South African ASHRAE members to gauge the level of interest in starting a local Chapter. Tim Wentz (a past President and Farooq Mehboob) engaged with respondents and on the 28th March 2018 Tim presented the inner workings of ASHRAE to the local volunteers. To say we jumped in, rolled up our sleeves and got down to work be overstating it to say the least. We reeled at the complexity of ASHRAE and the structure it demanded. This was not an informal association set up for the sake of titles and mild interest. ASHRAE demands structure as they expect real deliverables from the committee in order to add value to the local community. Over the next couple of months our band of volunteers started to understand the expectations (and in some regard we’re still learning) but interest grew and from this the makings of the committee started to form. Richard Humphrey volunteered to stand as President for the first term, Olu Soluade as the Vice president, and yours truly opted for Secretary. Other volunteers like Dawie Kriel, Adele van der Walt, Pauline Prinsloo, Dick Morkel and Jochie van der Merwe were also early volunteers and took up key committee positions.

During the week of the 23rd – 27th July 2018 we had the pleasure of hosting the ASHRAE President, Sheila Hayter, the Region At Large Vice President, Dr Ahmed Alaa, and several other RAL executives. Being an excited and rather organized committee, led by a very enthusiastic President, we used this time with the ASHRAE leadership team to engage with the local bodies and societies to look for ways in which we could work together and form symbiotic relationships in the coming years. We had the pleasure of meeting with ECSA, GBCSA, CSIR, SAIRAC, CESA, SAIMechE, SAIEE, CIDB, SARDA and the University of Pretoria. The end of this week was the pinnacle though and on the 27th July 2018 we chartered the South African Chapter, officially sanctioning the committee and declaring our local Chapter as open for business.

Following the Charter ceremony the committee has worked to bring the local engineering community, amongst other things, our very own technical talks (our first being a Distinguished Lecturer from the UK who delivered a talk on Resilient Buildings) accredited by ECSA no less for continuing professional education. We have our first Regional Conference under our belt, which took place in October 2018 in Antalya, Turkey. Our committees, and associated chairs have started to grow and we can now say that we have a Refrigeration committee, a Members Promotion Committee, a Fire Committee, a Research Committee, a Young Engineers Committee, an Electronic Communications Committee and a Student Committee. And this is just the start, so keep watching this space for more!