The Johannesburg branch of SAIRAC (the South African Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning), this year celebrates its 60th anniversary.

To honour the milestone, it has brought together its entire social calendar into a single black-tie event in July.

Robert Fox thanking a speaker at one of SAIRAC Johannesburg’s regular Tech Talks.

Robert Fox thanking a speaker at one of SAIRAC Johannesburg’s regular Tech Talks. All photos by © Eamonn Ryan | RACA Journal

Robert Fox, the current president, shares some of SAIRAC’s rich history that dates back to 1951. “It all started with a group of like-minded people who got together to explore how they could disseminate and spread refrigeration (initially) knowledge in the industry. A steering committee was formed and worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for SAIRAC.”

SAIRAC’s website states: On 17 July 1951, the South African Institute of Refrigeration was founded at a meeting of refrigeration engineers and food scientists held at the Bordeaux Hotel in Cape Town. The founding membership of 41 elected Dr Guido Dreosti as the Institute’s first president, an office that he held for the next five years and again in 1957 and in 1962.

In 1962, the Institute widened its scope to include air conditioning and became the South African Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. In 1961 SAIRAC started establishing centres in the other major cities of South Africa. Port Elizabeth was established in 1961, followed by Johannesburg in 1963 and Durban in 1967.

“The secret behind SAIRAC’s success lies in the passion that its members have for the industry,” says Fox. “They are all volunteers who are committed to the industry’s growth and the dissemination of knowledge. SAIRAC’s objective is to spread information, which they do through technical talks, regional courses, strategic exhibitions and conferences, such as Frigair every three years.

“We’re performing a service for our industry, providing a roadmap for its growth. The organisation is today stable and we’re all very proud of our 60th anniversary given we’re all volunteers.”

A recent site visit – another of the regular events organised by SAIRAC Johannesburg.

A recent site visit – another of the regular events organised by SAIRAC Johannesburg.

He lists one of the most notable conferences that SAIRAC Johannesburg holds as being the Dreosti Memorial Lecture, which is named after the first president. The lecture brings international speakers to talk about topics relevant to the industry. This year the focus is on climate change.

“SAIRAC’s stance is to progress towards natural refrigerants, and this is evident in various technical talks held each month. The organisation’s vision is to extend knowledge to the younger generation of technicians and newcomers to the industry. This is because the government recognises refrigeration and air conditioning as critical skills to train more technicians and where existing professionals need upskilling. To achieve this, SAIRAC works with vocation training institutions around the country, of which ACRA is probably the biggest in the HVAC industry, to ensure that the industry has qualified professionals. For our body, training and growth are the key objectives to achieve.

“SAIRAC Johannesburg also hosts events like Christmas-in-July, a special annual celebration where members can network with other professionals. The AGM and national AGM are other events we host, rotating them among the regional centres. This year, Johannesburg will be hosting the national AGM all held simultaneously including a black-tie evening.

“In October, we’ve got our Fellows Lunch, which recognises people who’ve been in the industry for a long time, and to confer on them the Fellow status in recognition of their long service with a token of appreciation – a special lunch in their honour.”

SAIRAC Johannesburg has grown strongly over the last few years, says Fox. It is an active organisation with a large number of regular events for members to uplift their skills and constantly refresh their knowledge. “The committee plans the calendar of technical and social events for the year, which are then implemented by the team.”

In conclusion, SAIRAC has come a long way since its inception in 1951. The passion and commitment of its members have seen the organisation grow and become a significant player in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry. Their vision to broaden knowledge and train young professionals is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that the industry thrives.

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