posted by Iona Murphy

Spending
too much on energy? Ditch the shirt and tie

By relaxing the dress code on hot days, offices can turn down the AC without getting hot under the collar

City heatwave. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/people/thevillageidiot/

Summer is here! Well, for a couple of days at least. After weeks of showers, we've been rewarded with a glorious weekend of perfect barbecue weather. But come Monday, keeping cool in your work gear can seem impossible. If you thought you spied less suits than usual on your commute today, you may not have been wrong.

On those rare days when the Sun decides to make an appearance, thousands of businesses will need to have the air conditioning on full blast to keep employees cool and able to function in full business regalia. Given that they basically function as building-sized refridgerators, air conditioning systems are energy-hungry beasts. AC can account for up to 30% of an office's annual energy spend, so it’s easy to see why the status quo is falling out of favour.

With staff liberated from the stuffy jacket and tie, the AC doesn't have to work flat out to stop everyone overheating.

That's why, in recent years, smart managers have been relaxing the office dress code on hot days. With staff liberated from the stuffy jacket and tie, the AC doesn't have to work flat out to stop everyone overheating. This has to be one of the easiest (and most enjoyable) ways a business can save on carbon. You arrive at work cool and focused instead of sweaty and disgruntled, fling open the windows to take advantage of the summer breeze, and get down to work.  It's an easy pitch; not only is switching off or turning down an opportunity to save money and energy; it's also a great way to get people talking about cutting carbon in the workplace. It might even save on dry cleaning too!

We’re not the first bright sparks to have figured this out. In an effort to bring down national emissions, In 2005, the Japanese government launched 'Super Cool Biz', an initiative that encouraged companies to relax their dress code and turn down the AC to reduce energy consumption. After a slow start, the scheme has really picked up speed – in a 2009 poll 57% said the scheme had taken off in their workplace. And with the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant still out of action following the March earthquake and tsunami, authorities are ramping up the campaign this summer in the hope of avoiding blackouts.

While we might give the pedal pushers a miss, this is one trend we hope will really take off in the UK.

Smart polo shirts, khakis, pedal pushers and dresses are a few staples of the Super Cool Biz look. While the name is in dire need of a rebrand  (suggestions welcome), and we might give the pedal pushers a miss, this is one trend we hope will really take off in the UK.

Tomorrow it might be business as usual weather-wise, but a quick chat now with your boss might mean some serious carbon savings the next time we're blessed with sunshine.

Has your workplace adopted a heatwave-friendly dresscode to save energy? Let us know.

See also