Office Temperatures Are 'Sexist'

Temperatures are based on the male metabolism, study says
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2015 6:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – A man and woman work in the same room all day long. One is perfectly comfortable while the other is freezing her tush off. Sound strange? Nope, it's just daily life in offices, according to a new study that says our average building temperature is outdated and favors the bristling male metabolism, the New York Times reports. Researchers figured this by placing 16 young women in 75-degree "respiration chambers" and measuring their temperatures while they did light office work in summer clothing. The takeaway: Their metabolic rate averaged 20% to 32% less than the chart we use to design building temperatures. That chart was made in the 1960s and based on a 40-year-old, 154-pound guy wearing a suit and tie, reports the New Yorker.

Today that model is "a huge assumption that is a mistake," study co-author Boris Kingma tells the Washington Post. He reckons women prefer 75 degrees, while a guy likes 70, which is about average for a modern office. And half of today's workers are women, so what now? Men in suits and ties could "take off a piece of clothing," Kingma says, while others are designing systems to let workers set their own cubicle temperatures. Plus there's a bigger issue: Carbon-dioxide-spewing power plants send about 40% of their energy to residential and commercial buildings, the feds say, so warmer buildings should help reduce climate change. Meanwhile, "we need to keep pushing" for ideas because "the phenomenon of women getting cold is very, very obvious," one expert says. (Meanwhile, one theory predicts that a "mini-ice age" is coming.)

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