Study: Offices use decades-old formula to set office temperatures

WASHINGTON — We’ve all been there: It’s sweltering hot outside, but you can’t really dress for the weather, because you work in an office that’s always freezing cold. Long socks and boots won’t do; you’ll need that tweed blazer or wool sweater.

A study published Monday shows that most office buildings set temperatures based on an old formula that uses the metabolic rates of men.

“In a lot of buildings, you see energy consumption is a lot higher because the standard is calibrated for men’s body heat production,” Boris Kingma, a co-author of the study, told the New York Times. “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.”

As reported by the Times, the study says setting warmer temperatures increases thermal comfort and helps fight global warming. The study follows an office temperature model from the 1960s.

“This may cause buildings to be intrinsically non-energy-efficient in providing comfort to females,” the study said. “Ultimately, an accurate representation of thermal demand of all occupants leads to actual energy consumption predictions and real energy savings of buildings that are designed and operated by the buildings services community.”

So maybe it’s time to change the formula. As the Times points out, researchers tested 16 women doing seated work in light clothing. They tested external and internal body temperatures.

Researchers found the women’s average metabolic rate was 20 to 32 percent lower than the rates used to determine office temperature.

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