Ever heard of the Dormitory Association of the State of New York? Unless you are a real estate developer designing and constructing large buildings for commercial or residential use, the answer is probably not. The DASNY’s services can encompass all aspects of project development including: financing, master planning, property acquisition, design, procurement, and construction project management, according to its website.
Most of us set our thermostat to the temperature we want and forget about it. Our heating and/or cooling system then figures out which components to turn on and off — and when — in order to keep the inside of our homes at that temperature. It’s set it and forget it most of the time.
That makes a lot of sense. There are lots of things inside our homes — walls, carpets, furniture, and so forth. It takes time to warm those things up when our rooms get cold and to cool them off when the rooms are hot. So it makes sense that keeping everything at a constant temperature should be the most energy efficient way to go, right? Not necessarily.
Jodi Smits Anderson of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York tells Yale Climate Connections that a change in strategy at the agency’s headquarters made a very significant change in energy usage. “The building used to be 73 degrees day-in, day-out, and the systems were always trying to get us to exactly 73 degrees no matter what Mother Nature was doing outside,” she says.
But now the temperature is allowed to go as low as 68 degrees F in winter and up to 78 degrees F in the summer. That required the people who work in the building to amend their lifestyles. “We also changed our dress codes, telling people that they are responsible to some extent for their own comfort within that range,” Anderson says. “Wear summer clothes in the summer, and wear your grandma’s winter sweater in the winter. Enjoy that.” As a result of the new policy, the agency reduced its energy usage by 40%.
The same strategy can work at home, she says. “It’s basic logical common sense, but we have worked very hard to tell ourselves that the world should respond to what we want, when we want it, in the moment we want. The world doesn’t work that way, so it’s a retooling of our own understanding. We need to work with our buildings.”
Convenience is all very nice, but if we are to address climate change effectively, we may have to place convenience lower on our list of priorities. On the personal level, avoiding single use plastics is one way to help and adapting to a lower indoor temperature in the winter and a higher indoor temperature in the summer can make a difference, too. And pocketing 40% savings on your energy bills can be pretty nice as well.