Recent research suggests that a form of sexual discrimination is being perpetuated in offices all around the world, since office ambient conditions are developed to accommodate men.
The Journal Nature Climate Change featured a letter which stated that the reason why women feel cold in the same workplace where men are comfortable, is related to women’s lower metabolic rates. This would demand changes in the way offices are cooled.
Dr. Boris Kingma and Prof. Boris Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University discovered that current methods employed to cool offices are similar to those used in the 1960’s, when the workforce was primarily composed of men. The method used to calculate the ideal temperature uses the metabolic rate of a 40 year-old, 154 pound man (approximately 69 kg) as reference.
This can only mean that it is normal that women feel uncomfortable in modern air conditioned offices. Moreover, a study was conducted on 16 young women, who were performing light office work, which showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled in summer by the air conditioning systems.
A press release from the university stated that it had been known that the metabolic rate of women was 20 to 35 percent lower than that of men, and that the standard procedure used to determine the ideal indoor climate in other buildings or public areas is based on the metabolic rate of a man.
Also, the two scientists concluded that thermal comfort models needed to be re-calibrated, enhanced or reconfigured, according to a biophysical approach.
The entire building’s energy consumption is significantly increased when people turn up the thermostat, or the heater, and drink more tea or coffee than usual.
Another debatable aspect brought up by the researchers was the fact that the method used to determine the ideal cooling rate might also ignore the differences in men and women’s clothing. They said that by taking into account women’s physiology and clothing preferences in calculating the ideal temperature, the offices would have a much higher level of comfort.
The authors concluded that since women’s metabolic rates differ significantly from men’s, modern offices need an improved cooling system that would accommodate gender differences, as well as age and special physiological characteristics, such as being thin or obese.
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