Temperature limits add to heat stress
By Kim Rahn
Skepticism is rising over the government’s indoor temperature regulations for offices and the subway system, as the energy saving measure is feared to lower productivity and efficiency by forcing people to work under sweltering conditions.
The government said last month that public offices such as those for central and local governments, public organizations and courts will have to keep the indoor temperature at 28 degrees Celsius or above between June 1 and Sept. 28.
This is 2 degrees higher than the temperature limit for the private sector, where the limit is applied to large-sized buildings using more than 100 kilowatts of electricity per hour.
Following government policy, Seoul City said Monday it will force city government buildings, district offices and affiliate organizations to abide by the rule starting July 1 after a grace period in June.
Moreover, the air-conditioning systems in those buildings must be turned off during peak times of energy consumption ― 2 - 2:40 p.m., 3 - 3:30 p.m. and 4 - 4:30 p.m.
“Keeping indoor temperatures at 28 degrees or over virtually means we will barely use air conditioners,” a city official said.
He said the city government has adopted a “cool-biz” approach, allowing employees to wear shorts and sandals, adding people can feel 1 to 2 degrees cooler in a sensible temperature in such attire.
“We public servants should set an example of enduring the heat and keeping the rules, and then we can tell citizens to follow them,” he said.
But many public employees seem unhappy with the measure.
A worker at the central government complex, who asked not to be named, said: “We took similar measures last year. It was so hot and nobody could concentrate on their work but just kept fanning themselves, with electric fans operating at the highest speed. Having to turn off air conditioners at midday, I’m already worried about the heat I’ll face this summer.”
Many citizens don’t agree to the step either. Kim Jeong-eun, a 36-year-old office worker, said: “When visiting department stores or discount stores that set the temperature at the regulation of 26 degrees, it’s hot enough. Now it will be hotter in public offices and citizens visiting there will feel annoyed. It will be cooler outside of the buildings.”
As part of enforcement measures, the city government plans to make public the names of departments at public offices which do not observe the rule.
“We know there is criticism that the measure will lower the efficiency of public servants’ work. But such a strong measure means the electricity shortage issue is that serious. We may have a hotter summer than last year, but we hope this will be a chance for people to look back on their careless use of electricity,” the city official said.
Along with temperature regulation, the city government will crack down on shops that operate air conditioners with their doors open. Those stores will be fined up to 3 million won.