Our Agenda for survival EP2: Rethinking comfort: We should not make air-conditioners a status symbol

Managing our cooling and heating demands is critical to environmental sustainability. Are we doing it right? Sunita Narain explains why we need to rethink comfort and push for better standards both in the way we build our buildings and the efficiency of devices we use.

Last Updated: Wednesday 04 July 2018

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  • Dear Madam,

    @2.19 the energy demand difference for Delhi is shown, and apparently there is ~ 50% reduction. It would be helpful to add the context that 8th June was Friday and 9th June Saturday, where many offices are closed. The cause would be better served if facts are with context. If we use another Saturday with high temperature and compare it with 9th June, we may get a lower % difference, but the contribution due to AC usage would be realistic.

    I hope you will consider that.

    Best Regards,
    Prakash Gupta

    Posted by: Prakash Gupta | 2 years ago | Reply
  • I don't know if it is possible at all to define a "national comfort". 28 degrees is simply not achievable by passive means when it is 40 degrees outside, except in extreme and rare cases (like, inside a step well or in a basement ventilated via an underground water tank or things like that, which are extremely expensive, need lots of water, and also don't work in humid places like Bengal). So if we impose this temperature we make most passive buildings illegal, which would be stupid and unfeasible -fortunately unfeasible!

    What is at stake is the notion that a comfortable building should have all its rooms conforming to a defined "comfort temperature". That is a developer's dream, but only achievable via AC or mechanical cooling, because nature does not work like that.

    Even the ancient king's palaces where not everywhere comfortable at all times: They had winter rooms and summer rooms, verandas, rooftop sleeping, etc.

    The same with vernacular houses: Rooms are used very differently in summer, in winter, and during the rains.

    Palaces had "status", ordinary houses had no "status", but all were working in the same manner.

    So I agree: We need to dissociate "status" from "AC". But we must also recognise that this is already happening right now, because in a decade or two, having to run an AC will be a burden (typically, of low-cost commercial spaces in polluted locations) and only a privileged few will be able to afford natural comfort. To avoid this disaster, we need to rethink our entire cities, why informal settlements are more comfortable than the "planned" ones, etc. and how we can build on that.

    Posted by: Laurent Fournier | 2 years ago | Reply