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Companies Warm to Idea of Upping Air-Con Temperatures

Many companies in Beijing have given the thought of turning up their air conditioners to save energy the cold shoulder, but others are warming to the idea.


The "turn to 26 C" campaign, launched in 2004, urges companies to increase their building temperatures to 26 C.


According to the Global Village of Beijing, one of the campaign's organizers, air-conditioning accounted for 40-50 percent of Beijing's energy use last July and August.


Throughout the summer of 2004, serious energy shortages sparked the regulation of air conditioning temperatures. Energy had to be brought in from areas outside Beijing.


The capital's public buildings, including 200 office blocks and 311 three-star and up hotels, make up only 5.4 percent of the city's private construction, but use about half of the energy.


Companies who increase their temperatures from 22-24 C to 26-28 C will collectively save an estimated 400 million to 600 million kilowatt hours over the two months of July and August. They will also save an estimated US$27.1 million to US$32.6 million over the same period.


With July approaching, companies like the Peninsula Palace Beijing hotel have come around to the idea of increasing temperatures.


"We have plans to up room temperatures by 1-2 degrees without affecting guest comfort," said Cecilia Lui, director of public relations at the hotel.


The 43,800-square-metre building is currently kept at 24 C by air-conditioners in each room.


The Peninsula will also reduce the time the cooling units work in public areas and install sound sensitive switches to save energy.


The 120,000-square-metre Grand Hyatt Beijing Hotel will raise the temperature in public areas from 25 to 26 C in July, said Phoebe Lee, the hotel's public relations manager.


However, guests will still be able to adjust the temperature in their rooms.


"We encourage energy conservation. However, guests at our hotels who are international travelers should enjoy the freedom that they are granted when they stay in other international cities," Lee said.


"Last year, some guests would ask us about the air-conditioning, but after we explained it to them, they seemed to understand the control strategy."


However, Li Xianting, professor of the School of Architecture of Tsinghua University, suggested ways to save energy other than increasing air-conditioner temperatures.


He believes the answer is improving facility efficiency and technician skills.


"You can't increase the temperature at the price of comfort," he said.


Di Ying, client manager of SoftMedia Consulting Group, agreed.


She usually wears a sweater to work in the summer.


More than 200 staff work at SoftMedia's headquarters in the Fuhua Building.


"Higher temperatures would slow work efficiency and are bad for running heated computers," she said.


(China Daily June 8, 2005)

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