From Humble Beginnings to The Natural Choice – STAR is born

Founded on October 12th 1970 in Glasgow by mechanical engineers Dr Stephen Forbes Pearson, Anthony Brown, and Robert Campbell, Star Refrigeration’s first steps in the industrial refrigeration and heating sector were small and tentative, after the demise of their former workplace L. Sterne & Co. But fast forward 45 years, and the company has developed into a diverse business group with over 300 staff in 10 locations across the UK and a number of agents in Europe and Asia – and it is the largest and most successful independent cooling and heating contractor in the UK.
In 1970, the three engineers pulled their redundancy money together to start STAR, picking the brand name in the most traditional of ways – from the initials of their Christian names. The company recruited skilled engineers who previously worked for Sterne and operated the business from Dr. Pearson’s home. Most of these engineers remained with Star until retirement age and some are still in active duty!Today, Star Refrigeration is a multi-faceted engineering group with a range of businesses that span consultancy, education, renewables, M&E and design through to commissioning and maintenance of HVACR solutions.


Move to Thornliebank HQ

Star set their first office in Thornliebank Industrial Estate, a few doors down from the current business location. When the number of employees outgrew the size of the building, Star relocated to where the Glasgow head office is today.


100 employees milestone

Star reached 100 employees and opened its first branch, expanding the company to England. The first branch was opened in Derby with around 10 employees at first.Today, Star’s infrastructure incorporates a nationwide network of 9 branch offices: Aberdeen, Bellshill, Bristol, Derby, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Oxford, as well as our head office in Thornliebank, Glasgow. Each branch is managed by an experienced industry professional, supported locally by a multi-disciplined team of sales, technical and administrative personnel. Business support systems are standardised throughout the company and deploy the latest technology. Northern Ireland and Eire are supported by our independent, locally based partners. This professional local support is complemented by our complete range of services.


First four way valve

A coldstore, a chillstore, blast freezer, ice maker and two vertical plate freezers were installed for Arthur Duthie & Sons in Alexandria and built behind the old torpedo factory. The four way valve at that point was known as a “pancake valve” because it was a round and flat shaped. The design has changed completely since then and is no longer a “pancake!”



Telstar is Star’s patented computerised control system service. Since 1983 Star Refrigeration has been refining and improving its monitoring tools for users of industrial cooling plants across a wide range of industries. With 24/7 live coverage across a national network of 9 branch offices, 10 experienced management teams and over 100 mobile field engineers, its comprehensive, reliable and results driven monitoring department continues to grow. The first Telstar monitoring job was for Spillers in Barrhead. The first Telstar control job was for William Lowes in Whitburn soon after.


Star makes it onto TV!

The Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship was to be hosted in a purposely built ice rink in Kelvin Hall. There was no ice rink in Kelvin Hall and one had to be built especially for the World Championships in only four days. With curling teams and fans travelling to Glasgow from all over the world for the major curling event, the job was a major engineering test that even attracted TV cameras and news reporters.The engineers worked hard in 24 hour shifts to complete the ice rink in time. In the end, Star’s team rose to the challenge and by the time the curlers arrived in Glasgow, they were ready to deliver the perfect stone!


First “Free Cooling” system was developed

Thermosyphon cooling was a noteworthy breakthrough in refrigeration technology as, for the first time, it allowed “free cooling” by natural, energy saving “thermosyphon” circulation of refrigerant around the chiller without running compressors. Deemed the “Freechiller” by Star, the systems ensure a plant life in excess of 20 years and have a low maintenance requirement since they have less compressor run hours than standard chillers.


First use of Carbon Dioxide in a freeze drying application

The first use of carbon dioxide in a freeze drying application was commissioned for Nestle’s freeze and spray dried coffee production plant in Hayes, Middlesex. The existing plant ran on pumped R22 at several temperature levels, and Nestle required a replacement that would be energy efficient as well as guarantee the long term solution required to continue coffee production on the site. An early design study conducted by Star showed that the carbon dioxide plant would be cheaper to install than any of the alternatives considered, including a two-stage ammonia plant. This was the first time a large industrial refrigeration system like this had been commissioned anywhere in the world, and proved to be a success for Nestle.


First distribution warehouse with a cascade ammonia/carbon dioxide system

2003 in the UK was the hottest year on record, with a summer that saw the recorded temperature exceed 38°C for the first time. In two parts of the UK, things were not so much hotting up as cooling down, as two significant refrigeration projects were underway. For the first time, Star installed a cascade ammonia/carbon dioxide system at two new ASDA Central Distribution Centres in Falkirk and Skelmersdale. In terms of size, they were among the biggest temperature controlled buildings in the UK, with a total combined internal volume of 412,000m³ – enough space to swallow over 5,000 double decker buses!


First time Star is listed in Top 100 Best Companies to Work For

Star Refrigeration is listed in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies for the first time.The survey collected feedback from Star Refrigeration’s 333 employees. Results revealed that employees think Star provide a great service and care about doing so. Employees were proud to work for the business.A top 20 score was achieved in terms of Star providing solutions that improve the environment. Star’s MD at the time, John Rowell, received praise from the staff and was recognised to run the business on sound moral values. Staff were also reported to have confidence in the leadership skills of their senior management.


Star’s engineering team receives IEA’s Rittinger Medal

The world’s largest zero carbon 90°C Ammonia District Heat Pump was once a feat deemed “impossible” by the International Energy Agency (IEA) but later received its prestigious Rittinger Medal. The Agency recognised Dr Pearson’s groundbreaking research and development in heat pump technology that fights climate change last year.