A study in the journal Nature Climate Change says it is time to consider the metabolic rate of women to determine office thermostat settings. Women often report being cold at work and two scientists say it is time for buildings to end “gender discriminating bias in thermal comfort.” There is a push for more energy efficient buildings that are sensitive to the metabolic rates and body types of women.
It is well documented that women have a metabolic rate 20 to 35 percent lower than men. This information has been ignored in building design and thermostat settings. Most building thermostats use an outdated 1960’s method of calculating optimal comfort level settings. This method takes into account air temperature, air speed, vapor pressure and clothing insulation. Metabolic rates are largely ignored since the calculation is based on a 40 year old man who weighs approximately 154 pounds.
According to the researchers, Boris Kingma and Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, this calculation may have represented an office setting back in 1960, but that is no longer the case in 2015 as women now represent half of the workforce and have considerably lower metabolic rates. Building physicist Joost van Hoof said that since women have lower needs for cooling, we can save energy since we are only cooling for the male population at the moment.
The call for a new building thermostat calculation is being heard loud and clear. The workplace has changed and women are freezing in the office. Scientists like Kingma and Lichtenbelt have their hands full trying to compute the optimal building temperatures for men, women, small people and obese. One area that will need to be given a closer look is the difference in clothing worn between the sexes. The model does not take that difference into account very well. Women often wear lighter clothing as compared to men in the summer months.
Image source Evoke.