Clive Broadbent, L.AIRAH, receiving the Distinguished Service Award from Sheila Hayter, the then ASHRAE President, in June 2019.
Clive Broadbent, AM, L.AIRAH
Clive Broadbent, L.AIRAH, has been a pioneer in HVAC design to prevent Legionnaires’ disease. He has over 50 years’ experience in the HVAC&R industry, including working for many key government projects both in Australia and internationally. He is a life member of AIRAH, a life fellow of ASHRAE, and a life fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia.
Over his career, Broadbent has built up a long list of achievements and accolades, including:
What brought you to the HVAC&R industry?
In the 1940s, my one-mile walk to primary school each day took me across a railway line near the station at Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, and occasionally there would be a steam engine on the move to see. I was always impressed by the sight of steam and its power.
I guess I could say I grew up in an age of steam, when having finished secondary school I started work for a nearby company called Dreadnought Steam Equipment Company. I was a fitter and turner there – capstan lathes, milling machines, toolmaking, valve testing – and we manufactured steam valves and condensate traps and the like.
I loved the work and the company wanted me to stay and advance with them, but I saw limitations and subsequently chose instead to undertake tertiary study at RMIT. I then secured in 1955 a cadet engineer position with the Federal Department of Works, completed the course and began my career as an Engineer grade 1 in 1959 working in the architectural/ engineering drawing office in Exhibition St, Melbourne.
What's your favourite HVAC&R-related memory?
The introduction of cooling tower Legionella control directives around the ComWorks offices and workshops would be hard to beat. Here virtually all listeners were keen to hear the news about practical control measures (circa 1987) – the government owned some 2,000 cooling towers at that time, so all this had potentially immense consequences.
Similar seminars organised by AIRAH would run close to favouritism and certainly they attracted much greater audience numbers. The importance to me, and no doubt to all those attendees, is in the fact that the very equipment we design and install for the benefit of society, with close attention to engineering detail to ensure good working order, can itself lead to human disease and even fatalities. Several public outbreaks, with deaths, in Australia have occurred at the commissioning stage for plant.
What's something everyone should know about you, your work, or the HVAC&R industry?
As a parting comment for young members, be aware that to enjoy engineering as a career you need to enjoy English writing. So it’s essential to read a lot and be able to write reports that are interesting so they will actually be read.
Communicating information is what engineering is about; it’s more than number crunching.
How long have you been a member of AIRAH?
My association with AIRAH started in 1960 when I met Jim Watson and Stuart Brown, each of Werner, as we were night school students – studying a diploma in HVAC&R – at Swinburne Tech.
They mentioned AIRAH meetings, which were then held in Kelvin Hall, 55 Collins Place (now part of Exhibition Street) Melbourne. I attended and was awestruck with the industry knowledge passed on by luminaries such as Bill Dobney Senior (and later his son Bill Junior), and by the monthly speakers.
I resolved to join to get closer to this knowledge bank but had to settle for the “Junior member” title myself. I could not enjoy the status of a full member until I was 26 years old.
Another luminary was Gwen Gray, who was noteworthy not only for the generosity of her time given to AIRAH but also for her role in leading HVAC&R course planning structures at RMIT – and all on top of her day job at Bassetts.
So much about all this was impressive. All those I met seemed to be, well, nice people. And the technical talent was patently obvious. I liked to listen.
That initial membership fee was a mere one pound 10 shillings, $2.10 in modern currency. It certainly proved to be good value! My certificate of membership is dated November 28, 1961 and was presented on March 14, 1962.
The program for 1962 was very attractive and included site visits to the Gas Corp., and to CSIRO Highett. I have fond memories, as these early years were the most influential of my life.
How have you seen the industry change in your time?
Without a doubt, the most significant change has been the emergence of electronics. I once favoured pneumatic controls as being the ultimate in automatic controls, but electronics has blown it away (and steam has long gone).
Devices such as variable speed drives, once only a dream, are now commonplace. Remote monitoring, even via mobile phones, again not even a dream once.
Electronics in its various guises is the hugely central feature of all of life today, including this HVAC&R industry. But electronics was only in its infancy and barely relevant when I began my engineering career in 1959.