When temperatures spike in the summer, it seems silly to bring a bulky sweater to work, but for most women it is an unfortunate reality. Thanks to a very clever team of scientists at the University of California-Berkeley, soon you will finally be able to leave the blanket at home while a smart chair keeps you warm at your office desk. The innovative PCS Hyperchair looks like your average high-end lumbar-supporting seat, with a few subtle but major adjustments. A built-in heating and cooling system and bluetooth and WiFi connectivity allow you to adjust the local temperature through the fabric of the chair.
The product has been in development for years, first tested in 2013 at the UC Berkeley library, where they found participants perceived a pleasant environment even when thermostats were switched off. The Center For Built Environment, whose goal is to make advancements in personal comfort systems, improving “thermal comfort and energy savings in office environments,” are this year finally releasing the chair to the public.
Controlling your personalized climate is simple — connect with the chair through an app on your phone or by pushing buttons on the side of the seat. The back of the chair and the seat can even be set to independent temperatures. Energy efficient fans provide a cooling breeze, while heating tape braided into the chair’s fabric warms you (similar to a heated car seat).
Temperature sensors can communicate with the building, so that if the central AC is turned down the cooling in the chairs can be adjusted accordingly to provide comfort. Not only is this kind of chair good for office workers, but the environment as well. The chairs could reduce energy waste and carbon dioxide emissions drastically. Fast Co Exist points out that 30 percent of of global carbon emissions are simply due to the energy use in buildings.
Installing personalized heating and cooling systems in office chairs has plenty of benefits for corporations as well, potentially slashing their gas and electric costs, "When we're talking to big corporate users, they can relax the temperature set point a little bit, and even a small amount of relaxing the temperature gives you big energy savings," Peter Rumsey, CEO of Hyperchair, told Fast Co Exist. Just a couple of degrees can make a big difference, "what you're going to find is a 5 percent to 10 percent energy savings on the heating and cooling system."
While these personalized chairs will help everyone, they do not come cheap — running between $1,000 to $1,500 each. Double the price of a top of the line ergonomic office chair. So far the Hyperchair has been sold mostly to large companies, but soon they will be filling individual orders as well.
If you've ever wondered why you shiver at your desk, even in the summer, you can thank an outmoded thermal comfort formula which has been in use since the 1960s. The New York Times reports that even though women make up half the working population, buildings still calibrate their temperature according to men’s average metabolic rate — not the actual thermal demands of the workers. A woman’s metabolic rate is 20 to 32 percent lower than the standard rates many buildings use to set their thermostats. So, ladies, you are not crazy for running your under the desk space heater even when it's 80 degrees out. And these chairs could be an awesome first step in changing the outdated office norm.