Ken Thomson, M.AIRAH
Ken Thomson, M.AIRAH, is a fixture of AIRAH’s professional development and technical resource offerings.
You can find him facilitating the Institute’s NCC Volume 1 Section J course and has contributed forum technical papers (and complementary Streamline sessions) as part of the Section J Case Study series.
Thomson also served as president of AIRAH’s Queensland division Committee from 2010–2019.
He grew up in many places around southeast Queensland, finally settling in Toowoomba to complete high school. Six years of engineering work and education as a structural steel detailing/design draftsman followed.
After moving to Brisbane, Thomson enrolled in a joint mechanical engineering/science degree in human movement studies at the University of Queensland (UQ).
With more than 25 years’ experience in the building industry, Thomson has completed numerous projects in ESD and mechanical design. His work has involved HVAC system design, documentation, and commissioning, as well as post-occupancy inspections, energy audits, and building condition audits.
What brought you to the HVAC&R industry?
I first entered the HVAC industry as a consultant engineer.
My first job after finishing university as a mature-age mechanical engineering graduate was with a company called S2F. I turned up at the interview and found I was being interviewed by a really good friend from my youth when I was living in Toowoomba. He had been overseas to Ireland and he was senior engineer with S2F.
We caught up from the years we had not seen each other and then discussed our families, what we were up to, and then he offered me the job. It was the best interview I have ever had.
Needless to say, I took his advice and started in the HVAC industry – without even knowing what HVAC stood for!
What’s your favourite HVAC&R-related memory?
Attending the AIRAH Awards in Melbourne in 2017, where I was a finalist in the WR Ahern Award, which is awarded annually in recognition of the best technical paper by an AIRAH member published in Ecolibrium in the preceding year. It was a lovely event in Melbourne and – even though I didn’t win the award – I was very happy to have been considered and I really enjoyed the evening.
What’s something everyone should know about you, your work, or the HVAC&R industry?
I met and spoke to Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones while they were in Brisbane at the Goodwill Games while I was working in the medical support team as a sports massage therapist. It was totally not related to the HVAC&R industry – however, it was work I did while studying my UQ degrees.
How long have you been a member of AIRAH?
I have been a member of AIRAH for 13 years. I spent the majority of those years on the Queensland division Committee. I was also president of AIRAH’s Queensland division for nine years, starting in 2010.
How have you seen the industry change in your time?
I have noticed the HVAC&R industry move away from the emphasis on the consultant-client relationship to a builder-client relationship. This has resulted in some significant changes in the way engineering and HVAC&R design is completed.
A big shift has occurred where the HVAC&R installing contractor must have a high level of engineering expertise to be able to manage the building contractor, and the drive to cost savings.
Design approaches have been pushed to the limit of good practice, and I have seen an increase in issues occurring and post-construction fixes being required.
How do you see the HVAC&R industry developing over the next 100 years?
A shift back to upfront engineering is most likely to occur.
The mechanisation of the construction industry will be reliant on highly skilled and detailed upfront design and modularisation.
Cost reduction will occur by reducing on-site labour and increasing the value put into the upfront work and off-site manufacturing.