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更新时间:2015-7-26 10:56:06 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Enduring Summer’s Deep Freeze

IT’S summertime. The season when you can write your name in the condensation on the windows at Starbucks, people pull on parkas to go to the movies and judges have been known to pause proceedings so bailiffs can escort jurors outside the courthouse to warm up.


On these, the hottest days of the year, office workers huddle under fleece blankets in their cubicles. Cold complaints trend on Twitter with posts like, “I could preserve dead bodies in the office it’s so cold in here.” And fashion and style bloggers offer advice for layered looks for coming in and out of the cold.


Why is America so over air-conditioned? It seems absurd, if not unconscionable, when you consider the money and energy wasted — not to mention the negative impact on the environment from the associated greenhouse-gas emissions. Architects, engineers, building owners and energy experts sigh with exasperation when asked for an explanation. They tick off a number of reasons — probably the most vexing is cultural.


“Being able to make people feel cold in the summer is a sign of power and prestige,” said Richard de Dear, director of the Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory at University of Sydney, Australia, where excessive air-conditioning is as prevalent as it is in much of the United States. He said the problem is even worse in parts of the Middle East and Asia.

“能让人在夏天觉得凉快是权力与特权的象征,” 澳大利亚悉尼大学室内环境质量实验室主任理查德·德·迪尔(Richard de Dear)说,在澳大利亚,过度使用空调也像美国一样普遍。他说问题在中东与亚洲更加严重。

Commercial real estate brokers and building managers say sophisticated tenants specify so-called chilling capacity in their lease agreements so they are guaranteed cold cachet. In retailing, luxury stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue are kept colder than more down-market Target, Walmart and Old Navy. Whole Foods is chillier than Kroger, which is chillier than Piggly Wiggly.

商用建筑地产商和建筑管理者说,精明的房客会特意在租约中列好所谓的制冷能力条款,确保得到冷气待遇。在零售界,波道夫·古德曼(Bergdorf Goodman)、尼曼·马库斯(Neiman Marcus)和萨克斯第五大道(Saks Fifth Avenue)等奢侈品商店都会把冷气开得比Target、沃尔玛或者Old Navy这些平价商场要大。健康食品(Whole Foods)比克洛格(Kroger)冷,克洛格又比Piggly Wiggly冷。

There’s also the widely held misconception that colder temperatures make workers more alert and productive when, in fact, research shows the opposite. Studies have shown people work less and make more mistakes when the air temperature is 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit versus 74 to 76 degrees. Moreover, some research indicates feeling cold can take a psychological toll, making people untrusting, uncommunicative and unfriendly.


As infants we learn to associate warmth with the safety of our parents’ arms. Our subconscious equates cold with vulnerability, which partly explains why people can be so miserable when they are chilled.


A region of the brain called the hypothalamus is responsible for our body’s thermoregulatory system, constricting blood vessels when we are cold and dilating them when we are hot to maintain a safe core body temperature. Your physical discomfort is essentially the hypothalamus prodding you to say, put on a sweater if it’s chilly or fan yourself when it’s hot.


Extreme temperature changes like entering a freezing lobby on a sweltering summer day may feel good at first, but it makes the hypothalamus go nuts, intensifying physical and psychological discomfort when the initial pleasure wears off — as if to say: “A blizzard is on its way! Do something!”


“It’s left over from a time when it was dangerous to have that kind of change in temperature,” said Nisha Charkoudian, a research physiologist with the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass.

“这是从过去那种温度骤然变化会带来危险的时代遗留下来的本能,”马萨诸塞州内蒂克美国陆军环境医学研究所的心理研究员妮莎·卡库迪安(Nisha Charkoudian)说。

The problem is compounded by building managers who, surveys indicate, typically don’t adjust the temperature set point higher in summertime when people wear lighter and more revealing clothes than they do in wintertime. Since thermoreceptors (nerve cells that sense temperature changes) are on your skin, the more of it you have exposed, the colder you are going to feel. Sixty-eight degrees feels a lot different if you are wearing a wool turtleneck, slacks and boots versus a poplin sundress and sandals.


However, you can understand managers’ bias toward keeping the lower, wintertime setting when many are men and might wear ties and jackets no matter the season. They may be even less inclined to bump up the thermostat if they are heavyset, as body fat is the ultimate heat insulator.


Air-conditioning systems are also usually designed for worst-case scenarios — full occupancy of a space on the hottest day of the year. As part of that calculation, designers might have assumed heat loads that factor in older-model computers and less energy-efficient lighting that radiate much more warmth than the machines and bulbs used today.


And, engineers say, they might add a 20 percent upward correction, just to be on the safe side. A result is systems with ridiculous overcapacity that don’t run well on low settings.


“It’s analogous to a high-tune car where you have to keep your foot on gas to keep it from stalling out,” said Edward Arens, professor of architecture and director of the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley.

“有点像高性能的车子,你得把脚放在油门上,才能不让它失速,”建筑学教授与加州大学伯克利分校建筑环境中心主任爱德华·阿伦斯(Edward Arens)说。

Paradoxically, another reason for aggressive air-conditioning is energy-efficient building construction. Better sealing and insulation keeps air-conditioning from escaping but it also keeps fresh air from entering. So cool air is often kept blasting to meet mandated air quality standards for levels of carbon dioxide that build up in the absence of outside air. The cool air also controls humidity, which can lead to every building manager’s nightmare: mold.


STILL, Mr. Arens and his colleagues found that when they reduced airflow in several office buildings during the summer, including ones on the Yahoo campus in Sunnyvale, Calif., air quality was not diminished and it cut employee cold complaints in half as well as reduced the energy bill by as much as 30 percent.


While architects like Mr. Arens point the finger at engineers for designing air-conditioning systems with too much capacity, engineers can justifiably point the finger back at those architects who often have an aesthetic aversion to thermostats.


“Architects try to convince mechanical engineers to hide sensors so they don’t mess up their beautiful design, so you find them in quite out-of-the-way locations” like within air inlets on the ceiling, where, because heat rises, they provide less than accurate readings, said Jon Seller, general manager of Optegy, an energy management consulting firm based in Hong Kong, which specializes in maximizing the efficiency and automation of air-conditioning systems.

“建筑师们总是劝机械工程师把传感器藏起来,这样就不会破坏他们的美丽设计,所以它们都藏在边边角角的位置”——比如天花板上的通气口之类的,而温度上升的时候,这样的位置往往不能准确地读数, Optegy的主管乔恩·塞勒(Jon Seller)说,这是一家香港的能源管理咨询公司,专长是空调系统的自动化,并将其效率最大化。

A couple of computer scientists have developed a smartphone app that proposes to solve that problem by making people the thermostats. Users can tell the app, called Comfy, whether they are hot, cold or just right. Over time, it learns trends and preferences and tells the air-conditioning system when and where to throttle up or throttle back the cooling. So far it’s used in a dozen buildings, including some of Google’s offices and some government-owned buildings, for a total of three million square feet. The developers claim Comfy-equipped buildings realize savings of up to 25 percent in cooling costs.


“We have a lot of data that people are most comfortable if they have some measure of control,” said Gwelen Paliaga, a building systems engineer in Arcata, Calif., and chairman of a committee that develops standards for human thermal comfort for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, or Ashrae.

“我们有很多数据,表明人们如果有一定的控制能力的时候,会觉得最舒服,”加利福尼亚州阿卡塔的建筑系统工程师格维伦·帕里亚加(Gwelen Paliaga)说,他还是美国制热、冷藏与空调工程协会(Ashrae)一个下属委员会的主席,该委员会专门制定人体舒适温度的标准。

Of course, for fresh air and comfort, engineers and architects tend to agree the most effective control is being able to open and close the windows. No app required.