Air Conditioning is sexist…
A recent study (Ref.1) shows how current indoor climate regulations are founded on a thermal comfort model, which was developed over 50 years ago – and is based on an average 40 year old man!
This means that most workplace air conditioning is designed for the comfort of male employees only.
Men feel most comfortable at the standard office temperature, a cool 220C. However, their female co-workers prefer a warmer indoor climate of 24.50C.
As women’s metabolic rate is on average 35% lower than men, this can create a very cold and uncomfortable environment for women.
It means that in the summer when it’s warm outside, women have to wear thick socks, scarves and cardigans rather than freeze in their too cool office.
It’s not just about women complaining…
The Sky News interview shown above with Radhika Sanghani, a writer at The Telegraph, expands on the negative impact that sexist air conditioning can have on women: They have to change the way they dress and sometimes can feel too cold to type.
And there are potentially more serious consequences:
Radhika outlines some of the physical and physiological effects caused by working in cold temperatures, including:
- Back aches
- Muscle strains
- Increase in blood pressure
- Tightening of air ways
What does this mean for businesses?
Poor temperature control has big implications for businesses.
Radhika explains how feeling cold can decrease productivity and increase typing errors. The cost of lost time and errors, added to the cost of running inefficient electric under desk heaters, means that ‘traditional air conditioning’ is costing employers huge amounts of money!
So what can we do?
Tell women to wear more clothes…
Tell men to wear less clothes…
The authors of the study suggest that we need a system that takes into account gender differences, as well as age and physiological differences such as weight.
We think we have found the answer.
Businesses need a system which creates a comfortable and even room temperature, without cold spots and draughts. The system needs to keep the temperature at around 240C to accommodate the women, but also remove moisture from the air to keep the men comfortable and allow their own body’s cooling system to operate better.
Ref 1: Kingma, B. & van Marken Lichtenbelt, W. (2015) ‘Energy consumption in buildings and female thermal demand’, Nature Climate Change, Vol.5, pp. 1054–1056
Ref 2: The Telegraph. (2015) ‘Air conditioning in your office is sexist. True story’. Radhika Sanghani. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11760417/Air-conditioning-in-your-office-is-sexist.-True-story.html [Accessed: 19th January 2016].