Summertime, and the Livin’ is Freezing

Freezing OfficeIt’s summertime, and Raynaud’s sufferers should be in Paradise, but instead of welcoming the warm temperatures, shedding layers and finally being free from winter shivers, alas air conditioning is in high season, and once again our extremities turn icy blue. While Frosties may have believed for a good part of their cold lives that it’s only Raynaud’s sufferers who endure this summer chill, we’re not alone:  a recent article in the New York Times titled Enduring Summer’s Deep Freeze asks the question “Why is America so over air-conditioned?”  The author Kate Murphy lists several theories:

  • Making people feel cold is a sign of power and prestige – this power cachet is even more of a cultural factor in the Middle East and Asia.  In our country, the concept extends to the retail environment where luxury stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks are kept chillier than Target and Wal-Mart.
  • There’s a false belief that workers are more productive in cold environments, but research has proven the opposite to be true – mistakes increase and productivity decreases as the temperature descends to uncomfortable levels.
  • Practical issues are also responsible – for example, building managers fail to factor in the wardrobe changes in warmer weather and the associated thinner, lighter seasonal clothing.  The nerve cells in our skin are therefore more exposed and will be more sensitive to the same temperature that may feel fine when you’re dressed in winter layers.  There’s also the more casual dress code today – fewer ties and jackets worn in the office, so even the male population is starting to chill, not just us Frostie chicks!
  • Technical factors also come into play.  For example, with more efficient building construction, cool air can’t escape and warm air can’t flow in.  Remember the good old days when you could just open a window?

Technology may provide an answer.  What if there was an app that learned over time what conditions and temperatures were more comfortable for you and crowdsourced this data for everyone in your apartment building or office?  This isn’t fantasy, it’s already on the market!  The app is called Comfy and it’s already being employed by Google and several government buildings, but it will take time and testing before these tools become mainstream.

You’d think more effort would be spent in getting this right as there’s a lot at stake for landlords who stand to gain significant savings by reducing cooling costs.  Let’s hope the financial incentive and new technologies will help Frosties everywhere get a little more warmth in coming summers! Here’s a link to the New York Times article Enduring Summer’s Deep Freeze.  We also found a article in The Washington Post from the summer of 2012 on the same subject with this catchy title:  Donning Sweaters and Snuggies to Combat the Office’s Deep Freeze in the Heat of Summer.  It’s worth reading just for this one line: “Fact: The average temperature in a Washington office is hypothermic tundra.”  And don’t miss the defensive fashion descriptions, like the dual sweater strategy, the pashmina-mummy strategy and the Dickensian fingerless-gloves method.  Sound like fashion labels made for Frosties…

A word of caution:  You might want to wrap up when reading these articles, as the descriptions alone can give you the chills!