The long-awaited (SAIRAC) Dreosti memorial lectures took place in June in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town, where international expert Dr Volkmar Hasse presented on all things R290.

At the inaugural South African Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (SAIRAC) meeting held in Cape Town on 17 July 1951, Dr Dreosti was elected the founding president of the association. As such, SAIRAC launched the Dreosti Memorial Lecture in 1998, a year after Dr Dreosti’s death. The Dreosti lecture exemplifies the objectives of SAIRAC to promote the unrestricted dissemination of knowledge and information.

In June 2019, the sixth SAIRAC Dreosti Memorial Lecture was presented by Dr Volkmar Hasse on the topic: ‘Design, maintenance, and conversion of systems to R290 as an alternative refrigerant with very low GWP and as practical as R22’.

Dr Hasse was the programme director for Proklima GTZ and has vast knowledge and experience relating to all aspects around R290 and the application thereof pertaining to refrigeration.

This was the first Dreosti memorial lecture since Derek Clements-Croome presented on ‘Can intelligent buildings provide alternative approaches to heating, ventilating and air conditioning of buildings?’ in 2013.

Other than the four events, Dr Hasse did various site visits and had many meetings across the country with industry stakeholders and role players. (More about this in a future edition of RACA Journal.)

Johannesburg lecture

A group shot with the World Refrigeration Day logo translated into Zulu – an amazing feat! Image credit: Ilana Koegelenberg

The Johannesburg centre kicked off the series of memorial lectures on Tuesday, 11 June at the Woodmead Country Club. The evening was well-attended by familiar faces from all over the industry who came dressed in jacket in tie to this Continual Professional Development (CPD)-event.

Centre chair, Jaco Pieterse, kicked things off by welcoming members and saying a few words about the history of the association and the Dreosti lecture. By a show of hands, it was determined that the majority of those in attendance were in fact SAIRAC members with a few visitors too.

Pieterse mentioned the previous lecture topics and briefly mentioned the RACA Journal, FRIGAIR, and other activities such as training as well. He then played the HERVAC SAIRAC video, which is used to attract people to the industry, before handing over to Grant Laidlaw, SAIRAC national treasurer and past president.

Laidlaw said a few words on how he was invited by the German government last year to build on their relationship, whereafter the idea for the RAC technical workshop in Cape Town was born. The Dreosti memorial lecture and RAC workshop was organised to coincide in Cape Town to ensure maximum industry attendance.

As the topic for the RAC workshop was all about natural refrigerants, it was fitting that Dr Hasse was speaking about R290 (a natural refrigerant) in his lecture.

Laidlaw then introduced Dr Hasse, handing over the podium to their German guest to share his experience and knowledge.

Dr Hasse started off by giving some background to his elaborate career history and involvement in the industry and various projects (even South African ones). He looked at Proklima and their involvement and the history of refrigerants before getting into all things R290.

After the lengthy lecture, everyone enjoyed a finger-foods supper, using the opportunity to chat to Dr Hasse and industry peers.

“Dr Hasse was one of the best Dreosti memorial lecture speakers thus far,” reported Laidlaw after the event. “His topic was current and linked in very well with the latest trends in industry as well as government. Lectures such as these are important for South Africa as a whole to keep up to date with international trends and to bring intellectual capital into the country,” said Laidlaw.

The Johannesburg attendance was good, but the association expected more involvement from industry. “It is extremely valuable for industry to attend such events to keep themselves up to date with what is going on,” said Laidlaw.

Durban lecture

The following day, on Wednesday, 12 June, Dr Hasse presented his talk to SAIRAC KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) members and guests in Durban at the Durban Country Club.

“I would like to say that it was an honour for SAIRAC KZN to host such a distinguished guest,” said Neeraj Ramkissoon, KZN centre vice chairman. “Dr Hasse with his wealth of knowledge, down-to-earth approach, and vast array of experience was well received by all who attended the lecture.”

According to Ramkissoon, the content presented was practical, up to date and applicable to today’s environment of advancing technologies, while R290 may have been around for many years, Dr Hasse’s presentation really highlighted the benefits not only in the efficiency of the equipment and up to 50% saving on electrical consumption, but ultimately its characteristic of being one of the most environmentally friendly (low GWP) refrigerants in the market.

“We would like to thank Dr Hasse for taking the time to travel to present this talk,” said Ramkissoon.

Port Elizabeth lecture

Next up was the Port Elizabeth centre on Thursday, 13 June at the Beach Hotel.

“It was an honour, as well as a great pleasure, to have spent some time with Dr Volkmar Hasse,” reported Mr. Piet le Roux, a past SAIRAC President, on behalf on the PE centre. “This humble man is an archive of knowledge and experience, gained during a career spanning 40 years. His knowledge and experience enable him to anticipate future trends and developments and make recommendations, as well as offer advice, related to important strategic technological decisions. Dr Hasse enjoys sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience with others. We wish Dr Hasse all the best for the next phase of his life – his retirement in the Philippines.”

Dreosti legacy

The PE SAIRAC centre was also privileged and honoured that Dr Dreosti’s daughter Joan and her husband Dr Ian Huskisson journeyed from their home in Knysna to attend this Dreosti Memorial Lecture. Mike Spearpoint, a SAIRAC fellow, interviewed Joan about her father:

“Joan told me her father spent much of his time at home working late at night in his office. Yet, when I asked her about their family life, she told me he was very much a committed family man and always had time for them. He must have had a great vision blessed with a very active mind and immense concentration.

With that came a deep understanding and knowledge of the fruit/ vegetable/ canning and fishing industries, and the dynamics driving those industries.

He must have recognised the potential for exporting South African products abroad especially prior to, during and after the Second World War to Europe and elsewhere. Don’t forget there was a huge shortage of ships during the war years.

One of the big drivers I imagine was the contra cyclical nature of north/ south hemispheres which fed into the cycle of growth for fruit in South Africa.

His research has had a huge knock-on effect when one considers the expansion taken place through much of his scientific research today.

Many of us probably owe our very careers to the founding work of Dr Guido Dreosti.

Coming back to Joan. She tells a wonderful story of her father which happened immediately after the war, and illustrates the high regard with which he was held by the international community.

He had made a huge impact during the war on ensuring the soldiers who were in the front line were adequately fed and nourished through the preservation of the food chain.

Immediately after the war he was approached by General Smuts to visit Germany and, together with two others, one from the UK and one from US, was to oversee the distribution of food for the Germans who were hungry and literally starving to death.

En route via the UK, and being a private, he was informed on his arrival that only commissioned officers were allowed into Germany to assist with the feeding programme. With that he was immediately promoted from a Private to a Lt Col. Joan says she knows of no other person being promoted in this way in one day!

Another amusing anecdote was relayed when he was asked by the then Minister of Agriculture to produce a fortified bread. Using a dehydrated concentrate of fish which was added to bread he used to bring home samples to be tasted by his family. Different de-odourised mixtures were given regularly and became known as Bremer Bread.

The Bremer Bread saga was in response to the then Minister of Agriculture, Mr Bremer requesting a formula be found for fortifying bread. Things, I gather, came to a head, however, when their dog refused to eat the bread.

Joan has played an important role in the Knysna community, responsible for the establishment of the U3A, or University of the Third Age. She is a founding and life member. U3A is learning co-operative for people from all walks of life.

Joan is married to a medical doctor – a specialist Physician. They are both involved in The Rotary club of Knysna and together operate a B&B in Knysna called ‘Turning Tides’. They have three children, all daughters, two of whom reside in Cape Town and one in New Zealand.”

Cape Town lecture

The Dreosti memorial lecture series came to an end in Cape Town on Wednesday, 19 June at Elsenburg in Stellenbosch. It was well-attended, although there were quite a number of registered attendees who failed to show up.

After a few words by SAIRAC centre Cape Town chair, Louis Vermeulen and a welcome and introduction from SAIRAC national president, Marius La Grange, Dr Hasse took to the podium to deliver his lecture one more time.

“I am happy that the average age of SAIRAC members is coming down,” said Vermeulen after the event. “The older members are helping the younger ones integrate into the industry and I’m happy to see knowledge transfer.”

Vermeulen said that the topic was very interesting and well-timed in terms of industry reaching a turning point with technology. He said the presentation was very interesting because it was about much more than R290 and there was a lot to learn about things you don’t normally necessarily think about, like the storing of energy for example. “I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from attendees and it was good to see some familiar faces,” said Vermeulen.

R290 lecture

The lecture spanned a vast number of slides and Dr Hasse shared a great deal of information, on R290 specifically, but also climate change in broad, and the future of refrigerants as well. He looked at typical R290 applications and real-life case studies, touching on topics such as safety, electrical savings, and even natural refrigerants in chillers.

The full presentation will be available to SAIRAC members for download on: