Ever noticed a co-worker wearing a shawl, a sweater or even a coat in the office on a warm summer day?
You’re looking at a victim of the cold war. No, not someone influenced by Russian election meddling, but a casualty of too-enthusiastic air conditioning.
According to a recent survey sponsored by B.C. Hydro, two-thirds of workers in BC say they’re not able to adjust the temperature, and of those, 60 per cent say they feel chilled.
As much as we can sympathize with those who find they need to bring a sweater to work on a 30 C day, the BC Hydro report is disturbing for many reasons.
First, if that many people are feeling chilled at work, it means we are keeping things to0 cool, which in turns means energy is being wasted. That, no doubt, is BC Hydro’s motive for looking into this.
Businesses should be concerned too, since feeling chilled or overheated tends to reduce productivity.
But living under the looming spectre of climate change, we should all be paying attention to making good use of our energy resources. As we should about another of BC Hydro’s stats, that air conditioning use in commercial buildings has increased by almost a third since 2006.
We’re not going to advocate against air conditioning. We enjoy being able to keep our cool as much as anyone. Modern building design offers an option for creating cooler buildings using passive technologies.
The Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus is proof of concept. Even on hot days, the interior remains comfortable, without the use of high-energy HVAC systems.
Trying to protect ourselves from the heat is nothing new, but we’re increasingly reliant on air conditioning to do it.
In addition to looking forward to new technologies, we can look to the past as well—our ancestors had the same desire for a cool refuge from the heat of summer.
Ever noticed one of those old farmhouses, surrounded by willows? They’re not there just because someone thought they were pretty. They shade the building and keep as much as the direct sun off it. That’s in stark contrast to modern homes, which seem to be built with the idea of being as exposed to the elements as possible.
Time to rethink how cool your office should be?