Is It Just Me or Is It Freezing in Here? Your Cold Summer Office

Monday, August 04, 2014

Is it really cold in your office during the summer? We explain why, and why you're probably better off. (lara604/flickr)

While summer temperatures continue to blister outside, most office buildings are kept at a too-cool temperature, causing unnecessary spending and making office workers reach for sweaters and hot coffee in July. Shaunacy Ferro, urban design reporter for Fast Company, explains the most common problems that lead to chilly office buildings and what can be done to temper office temperatures.


Shaunacy Ferro

Comments [25]

Mike from Long Island City

The IFMA put out a great study on this topic (, which shows temperature complaints--either too hot or too cold--at the very top of the list of annual facilities related issues.

At Arista, we work with facilities managers every day who manage what we call, "warmaggedon." It's so common, in fact, that just this year we put together a great white paper ( on the topic to help them understand many of the underlying causes, easy steps for improving temperature variance, and when it's time to to call in the pros. Notably though, you'd be surprised by how many of these issues can be managed internally, with very little associated costs.

Aug. 15 2014 04:19 PM
Peter from Flushing

Touch that thermostat and I will come drip sweat on you. Bring a jacket or sweater to work if you're cold, good grief...

Aug. 10 2014 02:58 PM
Fred from NY

Men still have to wear jackets, ties, or suits. Even for dress down or casual days men must wear long pants, shoes and socks. We work in an office place. Everyone is not freezing. Sorry to be sexist…but men are dresses for work: not the beach. I would be cold too if I wore sandals, a skirt, and a tank top.

Aug. 09 2014 10:50 AM
marge lewis

I remember the days working in the big city in August heat without air conditioning. Our office was the top floor of an office building with sky lights. It would get so hot that we would take s alt tablets sent to us by the main office across town! But we did it -- then a hot commute home on the LIRR to finish us off.

Aug. 09 2014 10:21 AM
Christine from Tenafly. NJ

MIT is working on a really cool system for individual temperature control. Sending pulses through a wristband seems to reset personal perception of temperature. Much easier on co-workers & the environment.

Aug. 06 2014 10:13 AM

Call me crazy but I like it cold. I can't wear a summer dress to work. I guess I could but I'm pretty hairy. Anyway, the heat hits me hard. Nothing makes you feel secure like a sweat stained shirt front and back with colleagues present.
It's difficult to stay silent when hearing women in the office asking for the AC to be turned off without asking if anyone minds. But I do.

Aug. 05 2014 08:15 PM
jonny B from NYC

i just eat high caloric food so that i have a nice, thick layer of body fat to withstand the frigid conditions at my office. And I drink yummy, spicy Michelada round the clock. (Shhhhh, don't tell my boss!!!!!!)

NOM NOMS keepzz meee warm

Aug. 05 2014 01:57 PM
Lilly from NY

I just came back from Turkey where for 2 weeks I needed just a light sweater. It was so nice to have a drink , enjoy a dinner, sit on the bus , and not to worry about freezing cold.
We all have to switch to stupid fluorescent bulbs to "save energy" but nobody in the government is mentioning how much more energy we could save by turning down or turning off the A/Cs in office buildings, department stores, restaurants etc. It's unhealthy, it's not good for the planet, and it is a huge waste of money.
It is sad that women can't wear summer dresses in the summer.

Aug. 04 2014 05:17 PM
AC Fan from New York, NY

So many retail establishments in NYC have barely any AC at all. I want to feel some relief when I step inside on a hot, humid day, but many establishments are no more than a few degrees cooler than outside.

It's funny how we never read stories about such businesses -- or about offices that blast the heat in the winter. When people are cold, it's considered an emergency -- there's even a city hotline they can call. But if you're uncomfortably warm, no matter what the season, you're expected to tough it out.

I keep a small fan on my desk at work and I run it as much during the winter as during the summer.

Aug. 04 2014 05:07 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On the temp. varying at different locations in an office bldg., adding circulating fans can help mix & distribute the air.

Aug. 04 2014 12:27 PM
Steven from Bklyn

Plausible guess thatgirl, but rather we know why Steven from Bklyn is (sometimes/often) too warm in winter and too cool in summer.

I'll manage though, thank you :-).

and the SFX were excellent!

Aug. 04 2014 12:03 PM
Amy from Manhattan

It's ridiculous. It seems like the hotter it is outside, the colder (not cooler) whoever controls the thermostat thinks it needs to be inside. Then it's a shock when you come inside & when you go outside. On the temp. being set for hotter lighting, it feels like it's set for incandescent lights, not even fluorescents! Once I was in an office that was so cold, I slipped when complaining about it & said the *refrigeration* was set too high!

I wonder if this is related to "warm" slippage. More & more in the last several years, weather forecasts are calling temp's. in the 80s--even the upper 80s--"warm." 80+ degrees is hot, not warm! One time a WNYC announcer was reading the forecast & (reading the supplied copy, I assume) called a temp. over 90 degrees "warm"! He stopped & said, "Warm? That's *hot*!" I haven't heard the 90s called hot on WNYC since...not yet, anyway.

Aug. 04 2014 11:58 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

And now you know why Steven from Brooklyn lives alone. SFX: Sad Trombone

Aug. 04 2014 11:48 AM

I'd say it's relative. 60 degrees for the first time in April feels great! 60 degrees after 85 degrees and sunshine is freezing. We've managed without air conditioning for most of this summer except on those very humid days.

Aug. 04 2014 11:45 AM
Kate from Westchester

Many years ago I worked in a "bull pen"-like office space with a wall of windows for a local health department. The thermostat for the space was inconveniently located in an adjacent area with a low ceiling and this caused the heat to cut off after only a couple of minutes. In the middle of the winter we were forced to result in placing ice packs for vaccine coolers on the top of the thermostat to fool it into staying on. We knew it was time to change the pack when we heard it slide off and hit the floor...

Aug. 04 2014 11:43 AM
Blackwing83 from Ny, Ny

My office is freezing all the time! I have a hoodie on right now! I don't think its a gender thing, or an issue with anyone who is overweight. Everyone in this office has either a hoodie or a fleece blanket on.

I'm grateful for air conditioning (seriously, its the best invention in the world,) but it's a bit like the arctic in here and unnecessary.

Aug. 04 2014 11:42 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

How about the subway and the buses? the newer ones are absolutely freezing

Aug. 04 2014 11:42 AM
Ashley from Long Branch

We have thermostats in every office but we've all discovered that they really just don't work. The rumor is that the temperature is set at an average of whatever a particular department's members set their thermostats to but clearly everyone in my area is uncomfortable. It's incredibly frustrating. Its summer but I have to dress like I'm preparing for a Siberian winter every day or I'm completely miserable all day.

Aug. 04 2014 11:41 AM
Steven from Brooklyn

Men's thermostat:
Up arrow labeled: Warmer
Down arrow labeled: Cooler

Women's thermostat:
Up arrow labeled: Too Warm
Down arrow labeled: Too Cold

Aug. 04 2014 11:40 AM
Bob from Westchester

@ Martin C: You mean you actually get out of your house? Doesn't that drive down the Fox News ratings? :-)

Aug. 04 2014 11:38 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

Offices, department stores and the subway are all chilled to "icebox" levels; it's unnerving, and unhealthy. I dress for outside temperatures; I shouldn't have to "layer up" once in the office.

People spend so much time in A/C, I believe their bodies lose the ability to cool themselves naturally. I don't rely upon much A/C at home--just a touch of it to take the humidity out of the air when it's 90 degrees plus--then I supplement air circulation with fans.

We're building these closed environments that are, supposedly, "advanced," aesthetically, but we're failing at making the environments healthy for us. Germs are trapped within them, and whole teams of people are walking about, sick, recirculating illness.

Don't get me started on soulless, florescent lighting...

Aug. 04 2014 11:38 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I am another of the poor, beleaguered office workers who have been forced to work in environments where it is colder during the summer than we would want it to be during the winter. And, much as I hate to say it, many of the offenders are overweight or obese. They are always hot and in charge of the thermostat on the logic that there are just so many clothes they can remove, while the rest of us can add sweaters and parkas. I wear hoodies around all summer because I know I'll wind up on a train or in an office that doubles as a meat locker.

On the other hand, as much as I hate the extreme A/C on the trains, I do understand that heat and humidity on a crowded train can lead to vomiting, and, all things considered, I'd rather have the cold than the stink. But I still have my trusty hoodie on.

Right now, however, I am blessed with an office of my own and my own personal A/C, and I really only feel the need to use it when the humidity goes up.

Aug. 04 2014 11:37 AM
Mary from Danbury CT

Problem in my building most often is that the side of the building with sun can be 20 degrees warmer than the north side.... and since it's hard to strip off clothes that to wear an extra layer, I can't really complain. I'm freezing, though!

Aug. 04 2014 11:36 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Agreed. I carry more extra clothing in the summer than I do in the winter; it's not necessary for it to be SO COLD on the subway, in movie theaters, and especially at work. Get a grip, AC controllers!

Aug. 04 2014 11:20 AM

Every place is too damn cold !!!

I didn't wait all year for summer in order to need to wear a sweater all the time. Who wants to drink all of these special frozen tropical "summer drinks" when it's 55 degrees in a bar?

What ever happened to screen doors?

Aug. 04 2014 10:05 AM

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