It’s not cool
My first experience of a tropical venue for a conference was in 2000 and unforgettable. It was in Thailand and the heat and humidity on the streets of Bangkok was truly unpleasant. But not as bad as sitting inside the conference venue shivering in my short sleeved open shirt (it’s a tropical country) alongside a hall full of snotting and sniffing delegates in suits and sweaters dressed for the near Arctic air-con discomfort that seems de-rigour for hot climate countries. I live in Scotland, I’m large, and fairly resilient to cool conditions. But that was not cool, it was horribly, uncomfortably cold.
I’ve learned to bring a jacket to subsequent conference venues in very hot countries, from South Africa, Thailand again, to Australia and most recently South China, but cannot help wondering about the cost to the businesses of maintaining artificially uncomfortable conditions?
In mid-March this year, at breakfast in a large hotel in Hong Kong, I sat shivering over a rapidly cooling cup of coffee and had a look around at the other guests and took the photos below as evidence; folk in jackets and scarves, collars up, coats, even a hat and a hood on a couple of guys. True, there was a sprinkling of innocents in shirt sleeves – presumably determined Europeans resolutely dressing for the climate they longed to enjoy. In the course of asking permission to photograph them I gained confirmatory insights in most cases; yes it is cold, yes it is uncomfortable, but it’s normal. One guy said he had switched off the air conditioning in his room because it had been impossible to raise the temperature setting sufficiently to be comfortable (I did the same). Another agreed it was cold then expressed a belief that it was “probably about 20 degrees” in the hotel (Fahrenhight perhaps, at least where the icy blast was hitting my neck). But it would be good to have some measurements and data.
Tropical cool: coat (left)
Jacket collars up… & …. hats on!
Perhaps more importantly for this hot countries phenomenon is the local climate impact of the heat extracted and released onto the city streets to contribute to heat island problems. And what about the energy required to create the artificial ice box conditions? That must be significant across a city? What would be the benefits across all those issues for allowing a few degrees of greater warmth inside conference centres, hotels and offices in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world? Environmental best practice marketing benefits could easily accrue, alongside cost savings. Could there be any important disadvantages? Any comparable experiences? Studies done anywhere? Is it a technology issue (adjustability to ambient conditions or absolute temperature settings?)