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Any office worker has seen it — the women wrapped up with sweaters with small heaters under their desks. In summer.
It’s all men’s fault, researchers in the Netherlands say. Air conditioning systems are designed using a 1960s formula that assumed the average office worker was a 40-year-old, 154 pound man.
And it’s not only making life miserable for women, but could be helping drive climate change, the team at Maastricht University says.
Men, in general, have higher metabolic rates than women, the researchers say, and they argue that the AC needs to be reset to reflect the true office population.
Women prefer rooms at about 77 degrees, while men prefer a cooler 72 degrees, according to Boris Kingma of the Maastricht University Medical Center.
“Indoor climate regulations are based on an empirical thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s,” they write in the journal Nature Climate Change.
"We argue that indoor climate standards should accurately represent the thermal demand of all occupants.”
“Standard values for one of its primary variables—metabolic rate—are based on an average male, and may overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35 percent.”
It's bad for people and for the environment -- not to mention for power bills.
“As the built environment is focusing more on design of energy-efficient buildings (for example, near-zero-energy buildings), we argue that indoor climate standards should accurately represent the thermal demand of all occupants,” they write.
“Otherwise there is a great risk that occupants will adapt their behavior to optimize personal comfort, which may in turn nullify the effects of supposed energy-efficient designs.” In other words, all those personal heaters will push up the electricity bill.
Joost van Hoof of the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands agrees. "Changing the way buildings are heated and cooled to account for gender differences could significantly cut energy consumption, and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he writes in a commentary.