A new study has discovered the answer to why some women find their office environment a little chilly – the office temperature is based on an ancient model designed to benefit men and ignore women.
Said formula can be traced back to the 1960s, a time when men dominated pretty much every corner of society. It was designed to optimize the employees’ thermal comfort and keep the body from shivering in order to produce heat or sweating in order to cool off.
The problem is that most (if not all) employees at the time were men, and thus the formula is based on men’s clothing and men’s metabolic rate, which is faster than women’s. The metabolic rate refers to the amount of energy that the body requires in order to function.
What’s more, the research team went on to explain that metabolic rates vary immensely not only from gender to gender, but also from individual to individual, depending on a person’s age, weight, height, fitness level and the kind of work that they do.
The formula also takes into consideration four (4) environmental factors: humidity, air velocity, radiant temperature and air temperature, but the general assumption made when setting office temperatures is that every single employee is a 40 year old men who weighs 154 pounds.
This is why some women feel cold during summer days. There have been previous studies that have suggested women generally prefer higher temperatures than men. Some of them have even claimed that the difference between ideal temperatures may be as big as 5.5 degrees. But the new study is the only one to back up its claims with physiological data.
For their study, a group of researchers from Maastrict University (the Netherlands) picked out 16 women and asked them to sit in a room with the temperature set to 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 degrees Fahrenheit), one of the warmer office temperatures typically encountered.
On average the subjects were 23 year old women who weigh 144 pounds, wore summer clothes (cotton / polyester sweatpants, cotton T-shirt, socks, underwear), and were responsible for carrying out light office tasks such as sending e-mails and reading while sitting at the table.
What the researchers found was that the women felt cold. While standard office settings currently assume that office workers have a metabolic rate which produces a heat of somewhere between 60 to 70 watts for every square meter, the study concluded that the formula overestimates a woman’s heat production by as much as 35 percent (35%).
Boris Kingma, lead author and researcher in human biology from Maastricht University, gave a statement stressing that previous studies have demonstrated that when someone’s environment goes out of balance and the room temperature is not what their body needs it to be, their productivity goes down.
He went on to advice building engineers and government officials to reconsider how they decide on the ideal office temperature, and said that “If you want to describe the thermal demand of a population, then it should be representative of that population”.
On top of everything, thermostat settings not only affect people, but also the planet’s environment. It’s directly responsible for how much energy a system uses and impacts office construction right from the first phase (the design phase) by indicating where the vents should be put, how much insulation should be used, how powerful the air conditioner and the heater need to be, and what a company’s energy bill might look like.
The study was published earlier this week, on Monday (August 3, 2015), in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Image Source: standard.co.uk