Sunday, June 28, 2009

Not-so-Cool Biz

It is still the rainy season here in Japan but the temperature is slowly creeping up as we head towards summer. Today's high is forecast to be 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Which wouldn't be too much different than the weather this time of year in my home town in Virginia except for two things:
  1. In Virginia we commute by car and cars have air-conditioning; in Japan most people commute by walking or riding a bike to the train station and taking a crowded train.
  2. Cool Biz
Today I'm going to focus on #2. If you aren't familiar with "Cool Biz", there is a nice article over on Slate about this Japanese campaign to reign in energy usage by making everyone uncomfortable.

The gist of Cool Biz is to crank up the temperature in offices to a balmy 28 degrees Celcius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and allow people to "dress down" to compensate. By "dress down", we're talking not having to wear a tie.

I've heard the figure 4 degrees bantered around as the difference not wearing a tie can make. But when I tried researching where that number came from, I cannot find any research measuring the relative apparent temperature with and without a tie. The number (which I presume is in degrees Celsius) seems to appear only in articles about Cool Biz and only as a number the Japanese government cites.

Not surprisingly, the large company I'm working at here in Tokyo is following the government's recommendation and has the thermostats set for 28 degrees. And I can tell you first-hand that the heat is incapacitating.

I was doing some research on how to deal with the heat and ran across some tips for living without air conditioning. For a wussy American such as myself who has been spoiled by comfortable working conditions for my whole life, 82.4 degrees might as well be no air conditioning. The tips:
  • Turn on fans to keep the air circulating.
We have 2 fans in a room with over 100 people in it.
  • Set ceiling fans to turn clockwise (counter-clockwise looking toward it).
Not really applicable in an office environment.
  • Keep curtains or blinds closed during the day.
Blinds are kept open all day.
  • Use light colored curtains to deflect heat.
The blinds are white. So if we were allowed to close them, it might help.
  • Keep windows and doors closed tightly to keep the house cool.
Check.
  • If there is a breeze or if outside air feels cooler than inside, open the window bringing in the cooler.
  • Keep sunny windows closed if there is no breeze.
  • In late afternoon, as soon as outside temperatures feel lower than inside temperatures, open all windows and doors.
  • In the evening, when it’s cool outdoors but still hot indoors, place fans in front of open windows to draw in the cool air.
I work in a fairly old office building that still has windows you can actually open. However, we are forbidden from opening them. Rumor has it that a couple years back someone snapped and try to jump out a window. Since then, we've been strictly forbidden from opening the windows. I suspect it was the heat that drove him to it.
  • Keep as many windows as possible open during night to take advantage of the cool night air to lower inside temperatures.
  • In the morning, close windows as soon as the outside air begins feeling warmer than inside air.
Besides not being feasible in an office environment, see the notes regarding the previous tips.
  • Limit strenuous physical activity until evening.
Check.
  • Drink lots of cold water.
And check.
  • When hot, use a water spritzer to spray yourself. The evaporating water will make you feel cool. (For fun, you can also spritz the water upwards and feel it fall down on you. The coldness can be quite shocking.)
I work in an open office floor plan with people sitting 2 feet from me in each direction and no walls. This might work if they are amicable to the idea too.
  • Tie a wet bandanna around your neck (this is something I do for my dog to prevent overheating and heatstroke during the summer).
I think we have a winner. I think I may have to try this one when the summer heat really sets in. Maybe I can start a fashion trend of white buttoned-up dress shirt, dress slacks, and a wet bandana. If I combining it with spritzing water, I can call it "wet biz".

1 comment:

yuletak said...

LOL... good stuff. I can totally see some suits in a government room deciding, "oh, i read somewhere there's a 4 degree diff if you don't wear a tie!", then cite it as gospel. : )