By Benjamin Brits
Karen Govender, HVAC engineer, found an early attraction to thermodynamics that focused her career.
July 2022 personality profile sponsored by:
Govender grew up in Newlands West, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, where after her schooling, she completed her Btech Mechanical at the Durban University of Technology. Her interest in thermodynamics began in the final year of her studies as one of her majors was on this subject. It was over this time where she based her final design project on a chilled water system for a two-storey building and recalls her interest for thermal comfort starting back then.
Getting into the HVAC sector was a targeted choice based on interest. While her career began in the green building sector, she soon realised that the HVAC design in a facility is a critical component of delivering a green building, and that sparked her pursuit of the sector. After having spent five years in green buildings, she transitioned to purely focus on the HVAC aspects. “I enjoyed the idea of contributing to the comfort levels of an environment – where people spent most of the their time”, she added.
Her hobbies and interests outside of work include sewing. She loves this activity and the process of creating an entire garment from scratch and also enjoys the challenges it brings. This activity involves the conception element, the math, the problem solving required as well as creating a design and converting a 2D drawing into a 3D final product.
Considering what she enjoys most about her work, Govender notes that bringing life to a design that provides thermal comfort for building occupants is intriguing as well as the process of integrating different types of equipment to provide the optimal environment for people. She continues, “There is a lot of emphasis placed on working environments, we spend more time inside buildings than we do outside and this needs to be a place where we feel comfortable. As an HVAC engineer, my role is ultimately to ensure these comfort levels are achieved. I enjoy the entire process from design to commissioning, to client satisfaction!”
Her most significant achievement to date, she revealed, is in her personal life. “I have to say that my biggest achievement has to be motherhood. Juggling the entire working-mum dynamic has taught me a few things such as prioritising important and urgent tasks, working efficiently, multi-tasking and creative thinking – all of which can be applied to my role as an engineer”.
Looking to her view on the future of technology related to built environment management, conditioning and refrigerants, her opinion is that South Africa is progressing and she believes that we need to match the technology available with the skill sets at hand, while ongoing education and knowledge-sharing is also key.
“We constantly aim to reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings through equipment design together with the latest refrigerants available. The emerging refrigerants have zero ozone depleting potential which is what we want to reduce our contributions to global warming while providing the client with an efficient system. At the end of the day, we can provide thermal comfort through high efficiency systems that have a low environmental impact too”, she concludes.