Air Conditioning through the Four Seasons

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Here in Kuwait, we note the change in season not by the turning of colors in the leaves, but rather the phasing out of white and cream-colored dishdashas for ones of dark gray, navy blue, and all the possible shades of tree-trunk.

However, maintenance in offices, entertainment venues, shopping malls and even the airport, as I discovered today, seem to only perceive one season: the constant permafrost of the AC: rain or shine, winter or summer, be it 15 degrees Celsius outside or 50.

What is going on? Decisions on issues related to maintenance in Kuwait run slow and tend to be decentralized. For the past month, yes one month, my coworkers has been pushing hard to turn the AC off in our office.

First, finding a way to open the locked door where the thermostat is located was an adventure as no one knew who owned the key. Second, for some reason, the idea of just turning the switch OFF, cold-turkey (no pun intended) seemed to be unfathomable, an alternative that was improcessable. You'd think visualizing a world without AC was like stepping out of the Matrix or something.

Although the temperature has dropped significantly, and women are pulling out their boots and sweaters of the latest fashion, the AC is blasting full in many buildings, even though the temperature outside allows for maintaining a comfortable environment without it. No one in charge seems to get the hint by Mother Nature.

At the same time, Spain has recently put out a law limiting temperature on air conditioners and heaters in public spaces, such as cafes, bars, offices, government buildings and airports, etc. In the winter, the temperature cannot exceed 21 C, and in the summer they cannot go below 26 C. Furthermore, these places will be open to inspection to make sure that there is sufficient insulation and proper to design to prevent warm and cool air from escaping buildings. This is part of 31 measures the government will take to meet its 2011 energy efficient strategy.

In a way, its a shame that while Spaniards are taking such precautions with policies that require proactive measures by each and every citizen, these efforts are literally wasted when other rich parts of the world are blasting AC in the middle of winter. Wake up from the stupor Kuwait and take initiative. The Copenhagen Meeting is fast approaching and these kind of unnecessary phenomena are completely unpardonable. And for those of you nodding your head to this and sick and tired of freezing, if you work in a building where the AC is still on, do what my colleagues and I did and fight for them to turn it off to save energy during the wintertime.

2 Responses on "Air Conditioning through the Four Seasons"

  1. Thomas says:

    I think this is something us architects have been lamenting about for a while now... With the substantial subsidies to electricity, gas and water there aren't enough incentives for people to 'save' on energy. Proper design of a building, regardless of function, can alleviate related shortcomings substantially (passive cooling, orientation, material choices, etc.), but such actions require bespoke efforts and know-how, which currently aren't really in demand here...
    Many of these shortcoming are dealt through planning (as mentioned in your example from Spain), but if planning regulations aren't enforced having such rules become irrelevant. So actions need to be implemented both on the ground, through informed clients as well as designers, but also on a political (planning and nationally strategic) level...
    Sometimes 'naming & shaming' can catalyze things, but this should be a, if not last, at least a non-preferred resort, as having these changes originating from a more grass-root level will inevitably have a more lasting impact...

    Victoria says:

    you are definately right about the subsidies, but i think it also speaks of management and foresight, something that is not just restricted to air conditioning controls (I am thinking Mishref).

    In terms of enforcement, I think in Spain it works only because it is a society that is used to already switching the thermostat accordingly with the temperature,particularly at an individual household level, so legal enforcement is only to weed out the rest, particularly businesses and public spaces.

    i never mentioned shaming and shunning, just that readers should request at their workplaces that the AC be turned off...i really thing that the fact that ACs are still turned on is just due to the fact that nobody has taken a second to think about it-a forgotten detail.