By Dusan Stefanov Pr Eng Mech & Eamonn Ryan

Dusan Stefanov was destined for an engineering career. Owning and running a business for a quarter of century was somewhat less expected however.

Dusan Stefanov, Co-founder of ODA Design. Image credit: ODA Design

Dusan Stefanov, Co-founder of ODA Design. Image credit: ODA Design

When the time came to choose a university subject for his career, Stefanov went the way of those before him. With a father who was a structural engineer and an uncle who was a mechanical engineer, he opted for mechanical engineering: HVAC and refrigeration, graduating at Belgrade University’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Thermotechnics. His thesis was ‘Methods of preserving energy during various heat transfer processes’.

Stefanov explains: “What drew me to HVAC was the duality of the subject: heating and cooling of the different fluids. Thermodynamics and fluid mechanics were the greater part of the subjects.”

His working career started as a young engineer in the research department of a scientific institute in Belgrade, Serbia. He moved to UK, and then on to New York University in order to take up PhD courses. Politics relating to the war in the Balkans meant that he could not renew his student visa and he accepted a position of a contracts manager in Gaborone, Botswana.

“I had realised that my theoretical knowledge had to be supplemented with practical experience and had decided to move into contracting,” Stefanov says.

However, in 1995 he relocated to South Africa, joining Northern Air as senior contracts manager and design engineer.

In 1997, Dusan together with his wife Olivera established ODA Design & Drafting (ODA Design) in Centurion, Gauteng. Their business offers consulting services and project management of HVAC, sprinklers, compressed air, fire detection and smoke ventilation systems. Among other responsibilities, Olivera manages the drawing office.

Over the past 25 years, ODA Design has assisted a broad spectrum of clients, domestic and international, with projects covering:

  • Residential and office blocks
  • Hospitals
  • Hotels and conference centres
  • Data centres
  • Shopping centres and other retail establishments
  • Mining projects
  • Automotive industry process cooling projects
  • Luxury game lodges

A particularly memorable project, a building in Pretoria, consisted of 7 200m2 of open plan retail space and a 7 200m2 storage area above it. As part of the building’s renovation ODA Design worked on the design of HVAC, sprinklers, fire detection and smoke ventilation. The project lasted much longer than originally anticipated, as the work was disrupted by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. [see project here.]

Stefanov says that the bulk of ODA’s business comes from ‘word of mouth’ and he credits that to the company’s longevity and industry networking. Nearly half of their business is generated through HVAC contractors who, he believes, are attracted by the outputs of Revit software (customised to suit products available in South Africa), detailed project documentation and accurate bills of quantities.

“When working in Revit, one has to model exact dimensions, piping and ducting connections of the equipment, that will be used for the project. Otherwise, site coordination becomes a nightmare and complaints about time wasted and costs incurred follow quickly,” Stefanov explains. Keeping up-to-date with technology is an integral part of running a high-tech business, hence the staff constantly attends webinars, complete ASHRAE courses and interact with other relevant parties within the industry.

“In order to stay relevant in today’s very competitive market, we at ODA Design pride ourselves on providing precision design and detailed drawings to clients and contractors.”

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