You May Have Good Reason for Feeling Cold at Work

It turns out that women are cold in offices for a good reason. Kingma and Lichtenbelt report that, “Indoor climate regulations are based on an empirical thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s… 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%… This may cause buildings to be intrinsically non-energy efficient in providing comfort to females.”

The study makes a case for using occupants’ actual metabolic rates instead. “If you have a more accurate view of the thermal demand of the people inside, then you can design the building so that you are wasting a lot less energy, and that means the carbon dioxide emission is less.”

Currently, many office temperatures are set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that’s comfortable for most men. However, many women would be comfortable at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The solution to this discrepancy may be providing people with the opportunity to control the temperature at their own workspace or to relocate easily to spaces in their workplace with different temperatures.

Not only are Kingma and Lichtenbelt urging an end to the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy for comfort’s sake, they also conclude that buildings with a “reduce[d] gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” have the added benefit of helping combat global warming.

Content based on the study, “Energy Consumption in Buildings and Female Thermal Demand,” by Boris Kingma and Wouter Lichtenbelt published in the Nature Climate Change journal.