My friend Kevin went to visit some family members in Japan this summer. We stayed in touch while he was there, and he kept me updated on what he was up to. One of the stories I most often retell is the one about how he spent a week visiting and observing his uncle's office, and found one key difference between this and any American office space.
"I guess they're doing some kind of energy-saving initiative there," Kevin said, "The offices are almost 90 degrees. Everyone has to take breaks just to get through the day"
This strange work environment, it turns out, is just one of many different work styles that nations in Asia are trying out as famously hot summers are met with expanding business across Asia.
I read an article in The New York Times this weekend about this. It mentioned that air conditioning is such a craze in India right now, that when selling cars, the advertised attribute isn't how fast the engine accelerates, but rather how quickly the AC cools.
But the widespread blackouts in India this summer represent one of the problems of air conditioner use in a country with an already stressed power grid. While everyone wants to feel relief from the constantly hot temperatures, if they all use air conditioners, the power grids will fail.
The article said that workers are more productive in air conditioned offices, with the cool air keeping them comfortable and awake, but that offices in Asia can't use that much electricity.
It occurred to me that smart thermostats might be a good solution to this quandary. If the power providers were able to do something to prevent blackouts at the source, then maybe Asian cities can have the best of both worlds.