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Office air conditioning temperatures ‘biased’ towards men

Traditional office working temperatures are based on outdated standards that don’t take female staff into account, say Dutch researchers

Research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that women prefer warmer working temperatures - 25 deg C (77 deg F) compared with 22 deg C (72 deg F) for men.

Existing air conditioning standards are the result of research from the 1960s, which used a standard ‘metabolic rate’ to work out a comfortable working temperature - the rate the speed at which bodies burn energy, and an indicator of how much heat is generated.

However, the study was based on the values for a 40-year-old man – whereas women have a rate that is typically 35 per cent lower.

The research focused on 16 young women performing light office work, and found they required considerably less cooling than current air conditioning guidelines suggest.

The study authors have now called for standard settings to be altered to take gender differences into account.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Dr Boris Kingma and Professor Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt said: ‘Thermal comfort models need to adjust the current metabolic standard by including the actual values for females.’

They added that metabolic rate also lowers with age, meaning older employees could equally be feeling the chill.

‘Therefore current indoor climate standards may intrinsically misrepresent thermal demand of the female and senior populations,’ the scientists said.

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