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Why Men and Women Battle Over the Office Thermostat

E1H6FD Infra red heat image of workers and heat loss at computer work station

Just think, its midsummer and you came to work dressed appropriately for the weather outside, but you had to bring a scarf and sweater to survive a day in the meat locker otherwise known as “the office.” Meanwhile, the guy next to you is doing fine. He even has his sleeves rolled up. It’s like the building was designed to make you uncomfortable.2-1 And in fact, maybe it was. A new study suggests that the insulation that’s supposed to make buildings more energy-efficient doesn’t keep them warm enough—that the standards are biased toward the metabolic rates of men, who tend to burn hotter than women. Is the question of which sex gets to control the AC more complicated than that? Guess. Just guess.2-2Buildings are meant to do more than just keep out the rain. They’re supposed to maintain comfort: Cool enough so you can sleep without sweating through your sheets, warm enough so you don’t shiver through your work day. At least, that’s the ideal. Finding that sweet spot has advantages way beyond a lower complaint-to-person ratio—the right temperature keeps morale up, HVAC costs down, and a building’s carbon footprint small.

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