By Eamonn Ryan
Barry Wallett is a highly skilled and dedicated engineer who has successfully transitioned into the mechanical engineering field.
Before he became managing director of RPM Engineering Group, he experienced a number of engineering disciplines before finally settling on a career in mechanical engineering, specifically air conditioning and ventilation.
He had always been interested in technical things. For instance, as a child he would strip radios and try to make them work again to understand how they functioned. After completing his engineering degree, he commenced his career in a military environment, working on software for command-and-control systems for defence companies producing South Africa’s highly-regarded G5/G6 howitzers. He thereafter moved into the banking environment, where he worked on financial systems and financial software engineering.
In 2013, Wallett was presented with an opportunity to join RPM, even though he had no prior mechanical engineering experience. He was approached by Pat Burke of RPM Engineering who offered him a job in HVAC&R. Burke assured him that his 50-years’ experience in the game was more than enough for both, and that Wallett would learn fast.
He was up for the challenge, signed up for courses and followed the ECSA path to migrate to mechanical engineering. This primarily involved sufficient practice in the new field before applying for his PR Eng. Given his broad attachment to all things technical and engineering, Wallett says that more than any sector of engineering HVAC&R “ticks all the boxes” as it’s much more technical than other fields he has worked in, touching on all disciplines, including chemical, structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering.
As he learned more and more about HVAC&R he realised: “I found it fascinating that multiple disciplinary fields are pulled into one field, and one gets exposed to a multi-disciplinary environment in this line of work.”
That was all a long time ago, and as Wallett’s career progressed he found his attention becoming increasingly focused on energy efficiency, particularly its key role in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and the implementation of ‘green’ building certifications. His key role as MD of the firm has been working with clients to make their systems and designs more energy-efficient and exploring new technologies to naturally cool and ventilate buildings.
“I’ve got some customers who take their green certification very seriously. It’s something that I’m also incredibly passionate about – I’ve just been appointed to the SAPOA ESG committee to help develop guidelines as to what companies should be looking at in implementing their ESG strategy, especially for smaller organisations.”
“All property owners are looking at their operating costs, more especially with water becoming a major concern and also with the new refrigerants being geared to be more energy efficient on the compression cycle,” says Wallett.
The majority of RPM’s work is with retrofits and refurbishments, which is more tricky than new builds given it involves taking an existing infrastructure and making it work on new technologies.
He has a passion for his work and is always striving to improve the services provided by RPM. Continually upgrading skills and knowledge is paramount. “Being members of SAIRAC we attend their technical and leadership courses, as well as undertaking overseas travel and technology investigations. We specifically spend a lot of time researching ESG as to what we can do to make buildings better.”
His dedication to his work has earned him the respect of his colleagues and clients alike.