¬†¬†¬†¬† Back in 1966, there was a buzz going around my community.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† A new high school was under construction, and it was going to be ultra modern!¬† In fact, the advanced technology to be employed¬†meant that the new building would¬†be climate controlled.¬† With air conditioning throughout the entire building, teachers and students would never again have to crank open¬†a window in search of a slight breeze on those¬†hot, humid, north Florida¬†days.
¬†¬†¬†¬† In fact,¬† the sophisticated new climate control¬†technology¬†made windows irrelevant.¬† Since no one would need to open windows for cooling any more, why bother with them at all?¬†¬†Hence, the brand-new, state-of-the-art¬†high school¬†was windowless.¬†¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† A year later I¬†entered the much-hyped school as a student, and I found¬†it a pretty¬†unpleasant environment.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† As I recall, it took some getting used to–for students and teachers alike–to be shut into a room together, unable to see beyond the four walls¬†surrounding¬†us.¬† My visual field¬†extended¬†no more than about 20 feet.¬† No sunlight, no passing cloud, no tree could be part of my, or my classmates’,¬†environment¬†during¬†most of the school day.¬†¬†Forget about a daydreaming gaze out the window.¬† And did a lack of access to the world outside mean we were more focused on our schoolwork?¬† I doubt it.¬†¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Thinking¬†back to my high school experience, I am reminded what a great invention was the glass window!¬† How I take it for granted that when indoors, at least in most buildings, I¬†am also part of the world outdoors because I can see it.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† With natural light¬†entering the¬†school only here and there through tiny windows in the outside doors, the school had to be lit entirely artificially.¬† I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but I now think that the lack of natural light, combined with the unnatural quality of fluorescents at that time, was a spirit dampener.
¬†¬†¬†¬† But the lack of windows¬†was not my main gripe about my¬†climate controlled¬†school.¬† It was damn cold in there, especially in¬†the mornings.¬† With cold air having blown through the¬†empty building¬†all night, the first classes of the day were quite uncomfortable.¬†¬† Woe to those who forgot to bring a sweater or jacket to school in the morning.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† But the worst days at Forrest High School were¬†the summer days.¬† Perhaps the plant manager felt he had to combat the Florida summer heat by making the building even colder¬†than it was during the school year.¬† For me, attending summer school classes in that ice-cold building¬†meant¬†piling on layers¬†and watching the clock.¬† I lived for the next¬†break when I could¬†spend a few minutes warming up outside.¬† During those breaks my spirit lifted, thanks to contact with the real, uncontrolled climate.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Some years later, I had another, not-so-pleasant¬†experience with¬†climate control technology.¬†¬†¬†¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† In the late 1970s, I worked in an office building in downtown Washington, DC.¬†¬† Fortunately, the building did have windows.¬† But, unfortunately, the decision to¬†cool or warm the building was not determined according to the weather outside.¬†¬†Instead, some building manager had decided well in advance, on a date¬†in late spring when the air conditioning would be switched on, and on¬†a corresponding date in the fall when the heat would be turned on.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† Of course the weather¬†only sometimes went along with the schedule.¬† Consequently,¬†we workers¬†often shivered in the air conditioning¬†on cold days, and when it was warm outside, the addition of central heat made us sweat.¬† Complaints to the building manager were met with a shrug.¬† The dates for switching on the AC and the heat were¬†immutable and could not be changed.¬†¬†¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† I hope that as we Americans become more conscious about our energy use, we will pay more attention to the heating and cooling of buildings.¬† Needlessly shivering or sweating is not only uncomfortable, but¬†the waste of¬†energy¬†contributes to global warming.–April Moore