A British government office has taken a radical step to reduce energy usage by installing timing switches in their toilets. In itself there is nothing unusual about this but staff in the West Midland reported that they have been often left in the dark after ten minutes when all the lights are switched off automatically in the cubicles.
The government workers explained that they feel humiliated and degraded as they often have to fumble and stumble in the dark struggling to make themselves decent before they can make their way back to the switch located near the entrance. The government employees complained that this is going too far since they were already complying with requests to switch the lights off in the toilets as they were leaving. The government bureaucrats believe that this is an undignified and possibly unsafe practice implemented in a misguided attempt to reduce energy use.
In response to their concerns a government spokesperson defended the timed toilet light switches; stating that they save both money and energy. She asserted that the government has introduced a range of measures across government buildings in order to reduce avoidable energy consumption and are continuing with similar works elsewhere. It is expected that these energy saving measures will be applied to all health, justice and education buildings in the Midlands. (Reported in the Daily Telegraph and reproduced in MX 31st March 2010).
Is this going a little too far? We will let you make up your own mind. However, we would probably recommend occupancy sensors in similar situations that could detect people’s movement or sensors that combine sound detection as well to avoid unexpected surprises. Toilet lights are one of the most pointless energy wasters in many buildings as the lights remain on all day or even 24/7 if forgotten. Numerous sites -especially government buildings- that we have audited implemented this strategy without complaints.