By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Florida in the summer

I have been attending the annual World Congress of the National Contract Management Association (the professional association for contracting professionals in government and industry), and will write both a blog post and a column about what I learned about contracting. The conference was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and in this post, I want to make a few observations about south Florida in the summertime. (My mother-in-law and my best friend both live in south Florida, so I actually get there pretty often, including in the summer.)

The first is that the summer weather in South Florida is typically not much different from that in Washington or even Boston. It was hot and muggy during this trip, but not more so than D.C. -- which in fact, was generally a few degrees hotter. Nonetheless, there were a surprising number of radio ads -- more than I hear on the radio in Washington or Boston -- promoting products or services around the theme of doing something about the unbearable hot summer weather. It would be interesting to see whether climate change has reduced the summer temperature differences between Washington and Florida -- whether they used to differ more than they do now.

Second, but somewhat related, one can easily see why the United States has a higher per capita consumption of energy than virtually every other country with our standard of living. To come into hotels is to enter an icebox; I am guessing lobby temperatures were set somewhere between 66 and 68 degrees (or about 20 C for non-U.S. blog readers), which can be uncomfortably cold when wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Why should interior temperatures in the summer be colder than we consider comfortable in the winter? (I am guessing that many people set summer temperatures in their homes at 68 and winter temperatures at 72, in both cases requiring more cooling or heating energy consumption. Why should there be a difference?)

Third, the local housing economy is still in trouble. In Bal Harbour, just north of Miami Beach, the uncompleted skeleton of a luxury St. Regis Hotel with condos remains deserted and spooky. A woman seeking to buy a condo told me banks are reluctant to approve mortgages where the value of the seller's unpaid mortgage is greater than the value of the house.

I also noted that cars on the secondary roads were travelling very, very slowly, typically just a mile or two above speed limits. Unfortunately that is not the case on I-95, with its dangerous mix of 85-year-olds who shouldn't be driving and drug dealers trying to make getaways. It appears that police in South Florida are using moving violations as a revenue source in tough economic times.

Having said all this, South Florida in many ways is bustling. The buildings are a tribute to the wonders that interesting paint colors can do: Otherwise dull buildings are really sparkled up through the mixture of turquoises, tans, blues, and pinks one sees everywhere. A good deal of the modern hotel and office architecture is also attractive, with interesting ornamentation in the form of spear-like objects angled out of the tops of buildings and unusual shapes or facades.


And it was fun to visit West Palm Beach, whose mayor, Lois Frankel, a high-school classmate, has done a fantastic job of dramatically redeveloping the downtown of this once down-and-out and still fairly poor city. It has an amazing new library that is incredibly welcoming for kids and that reminds one more of a Barnes and Noble bookstore than a boring public space.


Posted by Steve Kelman on Jul 22, 2010 at 7:26 PM

Reader Comments

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 Steve Kelman

Fun comments, thank you! Regarding hotel temperatures, I will say the following: I kept my room thermometer at 73, and when I came into my room from the hallway, it was very noticeably warmer. I by the way like the area too -- but I also think we are wasting energy.

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 Steve Herndon, VA

I was just in South Florida this past Monday - drove up A1A from South Beach up to Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, then flew out of West Palm Beach airport. I experienced everything he's talking about, right down to the observations of the St. Regis hotel and the air conditioning. And yes, it was hot, but it's hotter back here in the DC area. Seeing the unique hotels of Miami Beach made me think of the old "rat pack" and Jackie Gleason days, it seems as though the original buildings are still there and business still going - like the old Fountainbleu Miami Beach Hotel. As for the cars on I-95 - there was a time, years ago, when it would only take about five minutes of being on I-95 in the Miami area before I'd see at least a few cars with no back license plates, or a makeshift home made cardboard license plate in the back windshield. That didn't happen this time. Crazy drivers, sure, but they've become just as crazy around the DC beltway in the past year or so, as far as I'm concerned. From a federal contractor's perspective, I'm more interested in the activity in Tampa. But that's another story.

Fri, Jul 23, 2010

i grew up in south florida, but have lived in the DC metro area since graduating college in the midwest some 22 years ago. my parents still live in the same house i grew up in miami. i recall the summer weather in florida being hot as a kid, but not excessive. in my youth i would easily spend nearly all day outside in the florida sun and not think about it. perhaps i've become more sensitive to temperature as a middle-aged adult. but even when i return to visit in summer it still does not seem to be as hot there as it is in DC. as to your second observation i wonder whether it is just your perception that public places are kept cooler than necessary having just entered from the outside on a warm day. we keep the temperature in our home set between 72 & 74 degrees year-round. in summertime it certainly feels colder than 72 degrees inside our home because of the sudden change in temperature the body experiences when entering a cool room on a hot day. of course such drastic changes in temperature on the body are less noticeable in wintertime because we tend to peel out of our winter coats and sweaters as soon as we enter a warm room and our body underneath all that winter clothing is already closer to the actual temperature of the room we are entering so there is not that initial "shock" to the system.

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 Central Ohio

I totally agree with the writer's comments about temperatures in buildings. I just came back from the Sarasota area. I had to wear a jacket in nearly every store and restaurant while I was there but I still love the area. I look forward to leaving Ohio winters permanently in the near future.

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