Climate Control

While the East Coast is buried in snow and Southern California struggles under a scorching heat wave, it’s been 65 and sunny all week here in Berkeley. And we’ll get the same weather in July. With this kind of climate, one might expect that the heating and air conditioning needs of a campus building like Birge Hall would be pretty minimal. And indeed, through efficient design the building is maintained at a pleasant environment with hardly any energy.
Ha! I’m joking, of course. What they actually do here is run the heating and the air conditioning at the same time so that they cancel out. I only discovered this fact this week, when the heat pump broke—leaving the air conditioning running unchecked. Naturally there’s no way to adjust it, and so I end up carrying a sweater to lab with me, so that after walking through perfect weather to get there I can bundle up when I enter the building and avoid freezing to death.
Somehow, you’d think a physics building would have a more efficient solution to the problem of temperature control, but maybe it’s a corollary to the fact that the architecture building is always the ugliest building on campus. It brings to mind a common method of temperature control in condensed matter physics: cool the sample down to 4.2K with liquid helium, and then use an electric heating element to warm it back up to the desired temperature. But I’m not sure it scales up as well as the designers of Birge Hall’s HVAC system seem to believe.

5 thoughts on “Climate Control

  1. Mason

    I would hardly call what we currently have in SoCal a scorching heat wave. I think the weather is gorgeous right now!
    I am thankful that might flight out of DC yesterday was in the morning. (My interviewers asked me when my flight was because of the likely scenario of getting stuck in DC for one or more days unless my flight were in the morning.) It was raining a bit outside at that point, but I got out before there were any problems.

  2. Arcane Gazebo

    When I lived in SoCal I would have considered 77 degrees to be pretty close to perfect, but after 4.5 years in Berkeley I’ve grown to like slightly colder weather. :)

  3. Wren

    I go to DC in two weeks; my parents claim the snow will still be on the ground.
    Travis–I think the dual heating-cooling arrangement is *campus* policy, because our building seems to be the same thing. Most professors have incredibly ugly sweaters stashed in their offices now, after a series of shutoffs.

  4. Lemming

    Sounds like they were trying to maintain a nice buffer. If you fill up the room with tons and tons of hot and cold, then it’ll take a much larger disturbance to tip the scales one way or the other. Brilliant!
    Hey, that reminds me–I used to keep an emergency sweater in my desk as well, and I haven’t replaced it since I last used it… Suppose I usually have my jacket this season (well, not the last few days), but I should really bring it back in.

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