Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Open 28 Hours
Craig Neilson, 10 Mar 08
Article Photo

Anyone who has successfully "got away from it all" will know that time is, to a degree, a social construct designed to coordinate and organize cities and the city-folk that operate them.

The measuring of the time is not set in stone: daylight saving time is a controversial convention and the hours of the day people expect to work or be served are constantly changing. Many localities, including my own, have recently adjusted their daylight saving schedule, attempting to find the lifestyle sweet spot for our travel across the fourth dimension.

Energy Saving Time

You might have caught the news that a study at UC Santa Barbara recently found that Daylight Saving Time does not save energy (costs) in the state of Indiana, USA.

Since only some counties in Indiana observe Daylight Saving Time, but all counties have a similar enough sunrise, sunset and temperature pattern to be scientifically comparable, the state is a natural experiment. Laura Grant and Matthew Kotchen at UC Santa Barbara examined power consumption levels and bills across counties that observe DST and compared them to counties that do not.

The assumption made about DST is that by bringing normal waking hours forward (thereby extending evening daylight), society will reduce its demand for energy, enjoying sunlight instead of electric lighting.

Kotchen says that when DST was introduced by Benjamin Franklin, he didn't foresee air conditioners being used later into long, warm evenings. As a result of this extended use of air conditioning, the study found that counties that observed daylight saving time actually used between 1 and 4 percent more electricity than counties that did not.

There's a big call to make here: how can we reduce the power consumption of these air conditioners and lights, and increase the degree to which our power is generated by renewable resources, such that running an air conditioner is not a Bad Thing? Would it be more elegant, in the short term, to abandon DST or to somehow discourage air conditioning?


Open 24 Hours

The issue of what hours we spend awake is complicated by a significant and recent social change. Late last century there was a movement in cities towards round-the-clock availability that, ten years on, seems to be here to stay. 24 hour availability is now an integral component of globalisation and international business.

While no city is always-open, the trend to stay open longer is continuing, and hours are generally getting later for most retail and services. Increasingly, office and IT workers are expected to be "available" around the clock, or work at flexible or irregular times.

In New Zealand, an IT workers market has opened for out-sourced phone-based technical support for American companies. Supermarkets, service stations, and many other services remain open to serve the hospital workers, night-life adventurers, newspaper writers, security guards and other shift working industries.

Of course, the internet is lively 24 hours a day.

In 1999, a company called Urbanfetch ( link) operated a 24-hour ordering and 1-hour bicycle delivery service for a variety of meals, snacks, entertainment and gifts in Manhattan and London. The service went out of business the next year (lesson: you can't compete on prices for physical DVDs while offering free delivery), but it was the epitome of 24 hour living in the dot-com era. Urbanfetch was deliberately novel, but the conditions for its success are not difficult to imagine.

Open 28 Hours

While there isn't an alternative sleeping pattern that has enjoyed massive adoption (correct me if I'm wrong), there are various ways to arrange a day or a week for human habitation.

One of these ideas is the 28 Hour Day.

Under the 28 Hour Day system, the current week would remain at exactly 168 hours. (24x7=168) However, this 168 hour period would be divided into six 28-hour days rather than 7 24-hour days.

Six days means a reduction in transport requirements (longer work or study days), and more variety of day/night time spent awake. Its proponents say that they get more done, feel more rested, and synchronise with their natural sleeping patterns better.

When Harvard University experimented the 28 hour day on human subjects they found that the subjects adapted their waking and sleeping patterns to the alternative day but their hormones continued to work on a 24 hour, 11 minute cycle.

The ten hour day

The main argument against decimalisation of time is that the current 60/60/24/7/356 system is already practised around the globe. But an eventual change makes sense: as currency, space and other measurements turn decimal, why shouldn't time follow?

Decimalisation of time means longer hours, such that ten hours fill a day. Each would be broken in to ten minutes, each of which was ten seconds.


There's no question that being awake during daylight is the best use of solar energy we can make. But as an increasingly global world calls for globally compatible time, let's be open to what's possible.

Obligatory link: Check out the Long Now, which was founded in 01996.

The Long Now Foundation uses five digit dates, the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years.

Images: Thanks to Flickr/Rustybrick and Flickr/simpologist!

Bookmark and Share


I may just be a pedant, but it's "Daylight Saving Time" (without an extra "s" on "Saving").

Posted by: Gregory Williams on 13 Mar 08

Thanks Gregory! Either usage is common, but I've adjusted the article to refer to "Saving" as it was the original variant.

Posted by: Craig Neilson on 14 Mar 08

How about twelve 28-day months and a 29 or 30 day catch-all month? It's hardly original, but it would be nice if for an entire year the 12th fell on Tuesday, the
13th on Wednesday, etc.?

Hardly original, I know, but as long as you're rearranging things . . .

Posted by: Ron on 14 Mar 08

Your mention of the global nondecimal time system is nine days short. Also, might time be easier to track in a decimal system if there were 100 seconds per minute instead of 10?

Posted by: Ben on 14 Mar 08

I agree about decimalization of time, but not the specific units picked.

10 hours in a day is okay, but if each hour only has 10 minutes, then a minute in the new system is roughly as long as 15 minutes now. With only 10 seconds in a minute, then a second would be roughly as long as 1.5 minutes are now. You could add another time unit that it takes 10 of to make a sub-second unit, but really ... The general public wouldn't stand for it.

Instead have each hour be composed of 100 minutes. That would make each minute roughly 1.5 times the length of a current minute (probably close enough ...). Then have each minute composed of 100 seconds, which would make a second very close to the same duration as it is now.

While we're at it, let's change the week to be 10 days long (with three-day weekends), and the month to be 10 weeks long. Then we would have 3.65 (or sometimes 3.66) months in a year. Rather than worrying about making the month always start with the year, don't... Just let it roll over. Farmers and others that work by the season can use the day-of-year for when to plant. (i.e. Prepare fields on day 97, plant on day 106 ... etc ...)

Posted by: Eric on 15 Mar 08

We can intellectually measure time any way we want but at the base of our experience it is all biology. Our felt sense of time and its cyclic nature is embedded in rhythms of our bodies and the observable changing nature of sun, moon, tide and seasons. Playing with the numbers of how we describe it is not going to change the underlying reality of our own circadian rhythms. The pineal gland does not know how to read a clock. I think the problem -with energy use etc. is we trust the clock more than our own bodies needs.

Posted by: faith on 16 Mar 08



MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg