An exclusive interview with Stephen Gill, President of Institute of Refrigeration
A dynamic industry
Dynamic is perhaps the best way to describe the RACHP* industry. It is often incorrectly considered as a rather conservative industry as one mistakes its long history, complete with revered, century old, professional institutions, associations and societies, for one of traditional thinking and working practises. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
*The acronym RACHP (Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning, & Heat-Pumps) is increasingly being used to describe a section of industry that covers cooling as well as heating when achieved from the heat recovered from the refrigeration cycle or heat from heat-pump technologies. It differentiates from the slightly broader HVACR industry as it doesn’t include heating from wider sources (such as from gas boilers for example).
At the heart of modern living
Refrigeration is at the very heart of modern life. It enables people to live and work comfortably, it saves lives, it enables people to achieve. Surgeons operate in air-conditioned hospitals. Chilled vaccines are delivered safely to millions in need. Artists perform in air-conditioned theatres. Low carbon heating solutions keep people warm through heat-pump technology. Food is produced and delivered to billions in hygienically safe conditions. Man travelled to the moon in a temperature controlled rocket. Cooled Data-Centers, and Communications Servers enable us to communicate in this digital age. Refrigeration is everywhere, it touches lives in fantastic ways, it enables us to live in this modern world.
Central to meeting all these demands for human comfort and modern life, is the necessity to do so in a sustainable, safe, low environmental impact, energy efficient manner. The demand for cooling (and low-carbon heating) is growing around the world at a tremendous rate, and with it, the need to reduce the amount of energy consumed to achieve it. It can no-longer be a case of ‘business as usual’ for the RACHP industry. Thankfully the industry is rising to these challenges with an unprecedented rate of innovation and new thinking for both the types of systems used and the chemicals (refrigerants) used, and the methods of working. It is also at the forefront of energy storage which will enable renewable technologies to be more widely adopted. The rate of change is extraordinary, but with that, are further challenges such as the need to constantly update skills and knowledge of not only the industry’s workforce, but also the end-users, consultants and specifiers of the new systems.
The Institute of Refrigeration
The Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) is an independent registered charity run for the public benefit by individuals whose work depends upon RACHP technologies. The Institute provides a central resource for people from all over the world to improve the application of RACHP and allied fields for the general good of society. These broad charitable objectives mean that the IOR aims to provide information for everyone in any type of job, be they a trainee engineer, a design engineer, a marketing manager or those doing world level research. There is a little of something for everyone whether it be refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat-pumps.
The membership is an essential element of the IOR. We are owned by the membership. We are a charitable organisation s Its membership spans the wide range of range of roles of those working within the industry to those interested in the application of RACHP technology such as food technologists and cold store operators. It has members at the forefront of innovation and research and development as well as members designing, installing, and maintaining systems and equipment. Although its membership is predominately from the UK it has members from across the world and is open to anyone no matter where they live or work.
Our members frequently tell us that one of the things that they value most from their membership is the reliable technical information that the IOR produces. Information is available from many sources these days but is often commercially motivated, is rarely impartial and frequently technically unsound. All the IOR publications are produced by experts acting independently and is peer reviewed to ensure that they are technically accurate and not commercially biased. These IOR publications cover a range of subjects and appear in a number of formats. They can be important safety alerts if something has happened in the field that our members need informing of urgently, They can be general good practice guides, or codes of practice covering all the refrigerants where we are taking a lead to prepare the industry for what is coming up. We produce guides for end-users on areas of interests such as energy efficiency, and explain to the refrigerant phase-outs etc.
Our publications are highly respected through the HVACR industry and we are now working on collaborative agreements with other professional bodies around the world, such as the Irish Institute of Refrigeration for example, to enable their members to have access to these valuable resources. We also collaborate with an increasing number of associations and societies such as the IIR, ASHRAE, and CIBSE on holding international and local conferences and technical talks on subjects of interest to the RACHP community.
Recent developments and initiatives
The IOR is a leading body in its field with a long history of being at the forefront with initiatives that help the industry. For example, it took the lead a few years ago with an information led campaign aimed at reducing refrigerant leakage. The ‘REAL Zero’ initiative was a series of resources, initiated by the IOR to investigate the causes of and solutions to refrigerant leakage, against the background of the environmental impact that refrigerant leakage from systems. The IOR has also been a leader in sharing international innovation through ground breaking publications and conferences. For example, it led with the first CO2 refrigerant code, and also its HC code which is now been updated to include the lower flammables (Due out later this year), and will be hosting the first international HFO conference in Birmingham next summer.
This past year saw the formation of the IOR’s Women in RACHP network, a professional network of women working in the industry in whatever role, offering inspiration, support and professional development. Working in partnership, we support and inspire women to achieve as engineers or working in the RACHP engineering industry as leaders; we encourage the education of engineering; and we support companies with gender diversity and inclusion.
Our work with promoting the industry to the younger generation continues through careers promotion within schools and colleges, as well as our fantastic fridges (www.fantasticfridges.com ) website where children can learn all about how fridges work, the cold chain, and lots more about the science behind refrigeration with our interactive pages and games.
About Stephen Gill, President of Institute of Refrigeration
Stephen Gill is the President of the IOR, currently approximately half way through his three year term in the role. Steve moved into the industry after serving an engineering apprenticeship and has worked in it ever since gaining broad experience as a Company Owner, Board Director, Senior Manager, Sales and Design Engineer, Projects Manager, and as an Award Winning Consultant. He has extensive international experience, having worked in most European countries, China, and extensively in Southeast Asia.
In addition to engineering qualifications, he has an MBA from Loughborough University and an LLM (Masters of Law) from DeMontfort University.
He has become well known as an industry figure for his multi-award-winning refrigeration awareness campaign that took the form of memes which went viral a few years ago with over one million views, and more recently for an award winning industry wide mentoring scheme – cool mentoring.
Stephen formed his own engineering consultancy practise – Energy Efficient Solutions – in 2003 to help end-users make informed decisions regarding the most suitable and energy efficient systems for them.
What is your leadership style?
IOR is a volunteer led organisation, own and run by its members. It opens through a structure of committees and a Board of Trustees which Steve currently Chairs as President. The role is an honorary one. Steve’s style is largely collaborative seeking to ensure that the IOR continues to work for its members and its charitable aims. This has led to seeking collaboration with other societies with shared aims – “If we are to achieve our aims of promoting the responsible use of technology for the general good of society, these aims will be better met if as professional and technical bodies, we work together instead of in insolation. Collaboration between associations at local and international level is our aim”.