Don’t let the air out! On building codes and differences in degrees

January 15, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 15, 2015

New York has something that North Carolina doesn’t. And no, I’m not talking about consistently great pizza, one of the greatest cities in the history of the world and a theatrical scene rivaled only perhaps by London’s (although this is all true).

No, I’m referring to foyers and vestibules.

Don’t get me wrong: There are a handful of buildings in the Old North State that have spaces between their outer doors and their main spaces. But this architectural feature is much, much more common in the Empire State.

Why is this? Frankly, I’m not sure.

Perhaps business and home owners in New York are more interested in keeping their structures at a comfortable level — something that can be hard to do when every time someone enters or exits your building, the door admits humid 90-degree swamp gases (in the summer) or frigid 45-degree vapor (in the fall and winter).

Or maybe New Yorkers are more interested in saving money — again, something that’s hard to do when (to borrow a phrase dear to parents everywhere) you’re paying to air condition and/or heat the world.

Or mayhaps it’s simply that the state and local agencies that make and enforce building codes do more to require or encourage this kind of feature in New York than in North Carolina, because Northerners are more interested in energy conservation, or because they’re more in the thrall of construction interests that benefit from this kind of requirement.

I don’t really know the explanation. I’d guess it’s a mix of factors.

I tried comparing monthly temperatures (the overall average, average high and average low temperatures) in Durham and in New York’s Central Park to see if that might play a clear role in the difference in buildings. The data didn’t lead me anywhere in particular — yes, it’s warmer in North Carolina, especially in the daytime. But it’s not so much obviously warmer that I could detect any rational explanation.

Personally, I’ve always been very sensitive to the cold. And I detect the variation that the lack of a foyer allows; the North Carolina bars and restaurants that I frequent become noticeably cooler when the doors are opened on winter days, even briefly — sometimes uncomfortably so.

Which brings me back round to the beginning of this-here blog post. The long and the short of it is this: A little buffer zone can make a definite difference.


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