...but buildings are too cold because they're optimised for men.
August 3, 2015 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Fix sexism in air conditioning, save the planet: A quick article from Ars Technica (UK) talks about the frustration we've all experienced where buildings are often air conditioned to be too cold. Dress for summer and bring a sweater for the office. Enjoy the temperature preferred by your (likely older white male) managers. Original article is paywalled but the abstract can be found here. Finally, some (more) science to point out more obvious issues in the workplace. Not the genre-defining paper to lay all doubts to rest...but a good place to start.
posted by Strudel (182 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
It feels uncomfortably cold to the old white male managers too, this is such a tiring claim. The HVAC people tend to set stuff up however they like, to some stupid specification, and they never end up working in the same space themselves...they go off to wherever their department lives.

There's nothing nefarious or patriarchal going on it's just bad facilities management.
posted by trackofalljades at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2015 [24 favorites]


I'm freezing if it's below 80 degrees anywhere. Sexism is as good a reason as anything else to say TURN DOWN THE EFFING AIR CONDITIONING.
posted by Melismata at 12:20 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


....Hmm. Let's just say that I'm a woman who has reached the age when a cold room can be an unexpected blessing on occasion; so without reading the full paper, I'm not clear how this is a sexist situation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on August 3, 2015 [45 favorites]


I am a 40-ish man. I don't weigh 150 pounds, but how many 40-ish male office workers do, anyway?

Anyway, I don't like overly cool air conditioning (although I have spent a lot of time in a climate where air conditioning is necessary for at least 3 months a year). The air is very dry, which makes it easier for me to catch colds.

I would never complain about the air conditioning, though. Office environments are all about status, and complaining about trivial things makes you look weak. That's probably the biggest reason why the air conditioning is set so low.
posted by Nevin at 12:22 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


My wife works in a small business of nothing but women, and that place is always Arctic-like in the summer. Even in the winter, she sometimes has to park a small space heater under her desk, because the other, younger women like the place cooler.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:23 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm freezing if it's below 80 degrees anywhere. Sexism is as good a reason as anything else to say TURN DOWN THE EFFING AIR CONDITIONING.

I would suggest that making it warmer would actually involve turning UP the air conditioner but I suspect if I did this thread would instantly blow up to 1000 posts, eventually dividing Metafilter into "turning it up makes it colder" vs. "turning it up makes it warmer" factions.

So instead of suggesting that I will just quietly go about my business.
posted by bondcliff at 12:24 PM on August 3, 2015 [56 favorites]


Also, for the record, this 45 year old white dude is always too cold when the AC is on.
posted by bondcliff at 12:25 PM on August 3, 2015


Ha! My office has been having an ongoing battle between a guy who likes the AC around 80 and pretty much everyone else, but especially the woman, who turn it down.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I suspect this can be traced back to a Freudian fear of literally sweating your balls off.
posted by phunniemee at 12:26 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


viously clear that asking someone to turn UP the air conditioner implies making it work harder and as the air conditioner was not built to heat rooms it only fol
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on August 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


Any ambient temperature above 70°F is obscene. Put on a sweater, or I'll start taking my clothes off, and I assure you you won't like that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:27 PM on August 3, 2015 [38 favorites]


WaPo: Frigid offices, freezing women, oblivious men: An air-conditioning investigation
I found a trio, two women — shoulders bare — and a man, in handsome navy twill pants and a smart, checkered, button-down shirt, eating lunch together.

They all work together at a company that deals with international education issues. How’s the weather inside while they’re working on educating the globe?

“Cold.”

“Freezing.”

“It’s fine.”

You know I don’t have to tell you who said what.
(Please note: the article contradicts itself several times, and mocks its own use of anecdata, but since it is on topic, I figured I would share)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the Pax. The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors. It was supposed to calm the office, make it less sexist...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2015 [43 favorites]


Yeah, also speaking as a middle-aged woman, if you turn that thermostat down I will cut you.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 12:29 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


ACs have dials that have numbers (usually 1-4 or whatever). The higher the number, the colder it is. I think. Maybe.
posted by Melismata at 12:30 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a 40 year old man, I just want to get through a day without any major crapups. I just... please, no yelling. What do you mean Brad didn't update his document templates? I... Ok, we can fix this. Of course. Yes. Of course. Yes. Fine.
posted by boo_radley at 12:31 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Being cold is good for you. You're welcome, women!

Mwahahahaha.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:31 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Air conditioners are set for suits with pants, not skirts with pantyhose.

Solution: everyone wear pants instead of skirts and pantyhose.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2015 [22 favorites]


The temp in my office is set for the comfort of its most important user: the server room.

(It's definitely warmer in other parts of the building, but my space shares ductwork with the servers, so it's brrrr all the way down.)
posted by rtha at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


as the air conditioner was not built to heat rooms

You put an AC system in a room and run it - the room is going to get hotter. That work has to go somewhere.

We probaly should say things like: "[increase|decrease] the volume of conditioned air" or "[increase|decrease] the temperature of the conditioned air" instead of "turn it [up|down]

/ Heat pumps for everyone!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2015


I always just assumed that it is set colder because its easier (or more appropriate) to put clothes on to achieve a comfortable personal temperature than to remove clothes.
posted by czytm at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh, the air conditioning? That's funny, I hadn't actually noticed there was air in here? I guess with just all of the agile decisions we're making it's a thing that hadn't made itself known to me, let alone the relative temperature of the air that I'm surrounded by, and not the cold crushing vacuum that seems to be consuming me because I feel my brain is slowly trying to push my eyeballs out and did you know that Pat hasn't refilled the first aid kit and there's no tylenol in there any more and so I wound up taking three cold relief tabs but i don't really know if theyll help with this blinding headache anymore but here's hoping.
posted by boo_radley at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I just wish buildings would optimize their air temperatures for people wearing clothing appropriate to outside. I'm really sick of limping into work in the t-shirt and shorts or jeans that are acceptable for straggling to work in 100-degree weather on public transit and immediately freezing unless I also bring a freaking sweater. A sweater! There is no sane reason for me to need to wear a sweater at work in Texas in August!
posted by sciatrix at 12:34 PM on August 3, 2015 [42 favorites]


I don't expect that the climate-controlled temperature is going to be exactly perfect for my preferences at all times. Given that, I definitely rather they err on the side of coolness, because then I can put on a sweater and be comfortable. If it's hotter than I like, there's not much I can do about it - I'll just be uncomfortable and sweaty and gross.
posted by aubilenon at 12:34 PM on August 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


I work with menopausal women who would open the windows in the dead of winter if they weren't frozen shut.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:34 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


and genuinely, I'm about to be an Iain M. Banks character about achieving singularity with a migraine so you can play with the thermostat however you want if you just turn off the lights and please bring me a wet washcloth.
posted by boo_radley at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


ACs have dials that have numbers (usually 1-4 or whatever). The higher the number, the colder it is.

Mine is set by setting the thermostat for a certain temperature. So you'd turn it UP if you want it to be warm. I will fight you.

I've gotten into so many "it's too cold!" vs. "it's wicked hot in heah!" fights with coworkers over the years but I always loose them because they can always tell me to bring in a sweater and I can't very well tell them to remove their pants.

I don't doubt the standard idea of a comfortable temperature was agreed upon by a bunch of dudes in wool suits.
posted by bondcliff at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I found a trio, two women — shoulders bare — and a man, in handsome navy twill pants and a smart, checkered, button-down shirt, eating lunch together.

They all work together at a company that deals with international education issues. How’s the weather inside while they’re working on educating the globe?

“Cold.”

“Freezing.”

“It’s fine.”

You know I don’t have to tell you who said what.


So you're saying that when women dress like that they're just asking for it? That line of reasoning has been used before somewhere...
posted by skyscraper at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


27 posts in and no one has mentioned nipplage effects.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I suspect the proper temperature of an office is a scenario a lot like whether should should tilt your seat back in an airplane, or whether toilet paper should be hung overhand or underhand.

Specifically in that anyone who disagrees with me is getting reported to HUAC.
posted by griphus at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


There is no sane reason for me to need to wear a sweater at work in Texas in August!

Ah, but sciatrix, you forget the sanest reason of all reasons: fashion!
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:39 PM on August 3, 2015


Your favorite temperature setting sucks.
posted by maryr at 12:39 PM on August 3, 2015 [31 favorites]


I work the night shift, AC turns off just after six. In a room with 18 workstations rendering and exporting and such all night. Where do I go to get this "too cold" AC and how do I convince my employers it'd be better for their equipment let alone their employees?
posted by davros42 at 12:39 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Isn't the problem usually not the air conditioning, but that lots of people with different bodies and preferences have all been put together into one large open-plan office?
posted by BinaryApe at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


Specifically in that anyone who disagrees with me is getting reported to HUAC.

The HVAC HUAC?!!?!?
posted by davros42 at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


Let's have an insanely complex technological solution! At-desk voting apps where people can report their current thermal comfort. Smart watch monitors that detect physiological signs of temperature-related distress and report back to the building AI. Steerable microzones of personalised ambient environment.

And then let's harvest all the data and flog it to big companies who have convinced their VCs they can make money from it.

And THEN sell a very expensive 'security solution' when the first hackers induce hypothermia in the CEO of Victoria's Secret.

Come on, everyone. It's the 21st century. Enough with the sweaters already.
posted by Devonian at 12:41 PM on August 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


Solution: everyone wear pants

This time last year I fainted at the top of a three-story metro elevator after a ride on a barely air-conditioned subway car (while wearing pants), so while I would love to wear pants for the office, these days I instead wear skirts and keep a blanket, several scarves, and an extra coat at my desk at work.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't care about the temperature but if they could fix that squealing blower fan above the ceiling in the Kennywood Conference room, that would be great.
posted by octothorpe at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems like over the past half year or so, editors have realized that any article about latent sexism in a familiar situation will get a ton of clicks and shares. This is probably more good than bad, but it's worth keeping in mind.

There are a ton of standards that were developed mid-century and are now outdated, but are still followed due to inertia. Many were probably created based on biased samples -- it would be really good to revisit them. Whether or not this one in particular is actually causing a problem that falls disproportionately on women.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


My wife and I have established an uneasy truce with regards to AC settings and control in our LA/Valley home. Me (starts sweating at 70 degrees), I have limited options in that I can only take off the one single layer of clothing I tend to wear even in winter. She (starts freezing below 80 degrees), on the other hand, can add unlimited layers if she needs to. We both acknowledge this scientific truth. That's the visible layer of politics and diplomacy.

Of course there is still a hidden layer of covert operations as well. She will try to stealthily up the temperature using the AC phone app one degree at a time hoping that I won't notice (fat chance). I get to demonstratively walk up to the panel, cry "J'accuse!" and restore the colder settings without fear of reprisal because of the above truce and understanding. However, she may complain if I forget to up the temperature when leaving the house because of the wasted energy and money and I must acknowledge my failure and guilt openly.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2015 [22 favorites]


27 posts in and no one has mentioned nipplage effects.

So I walk to work (3/4 mile or 1.5 miles depending on whether I take the bus at the halfway point) and I've started wearing a tanktop on the walk and stuffing my shirt in my bag and changing at work. This works because we generally don't get clients showing up here and also I have my own office in which to sit in solitude and let the sweat evaporate off me before putting a shirt on. Sometimes I get lazy and just sit in my tanktop until I need to use the bathroom and then put my shirt on in there.

So it was probably around noon the day I discovered that the combination of the 70 degrees I keep my office at and the fabric of one of my tanktops made my nipples extremely apparent.
posted by griphus at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2015


skyscraper: "I found a trio, two women — shoulders bare — and a man, in handsome navy twill pants and a smart, checkered, button-down shirt, eating lunch together."

also fukken laffo -- I work in a financial institution and the men dress like they're taking senior pictures at an off-brand flyover state. Khakis are for customers, I don't know where this twill thriller popped up at to be observed for this article.
posted by boo_radley at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2015


Better to be too cold than too warm; more socially acceptable to put on a sweater than go shirtless.
posted by dazed_one at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is my fault. I am always hot and I want the AC set to 68 degrees.
posted by mullacc at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Keeping a room colder is the only logical choice.

In a mixed group, some will prefer warmer and some colder. But if you're colder you can control your own personal temperature by wearing a sweater, cardigan, jacket, etc. You can thus control your own comfort without affecting others.

If you're hot, there's a limit to your ability to control your situation. You can strip down until you're naked, and then if you're still hot you're SOL. You could use a fan, but this may inconvenience those around you. There's really no personal solution to your warmth problem.

Therefore, the best solution is to keep the room cold and let those who are uncomfortable wear more if they want to be warmer.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


I just wish buildings would optimize their air temperatures for people wearing clothing appropriate to outside.

Seconded. This would save energy, too, and it's what many people already do at home to keep bills under control (e.g. heating to mid-60s in the winter and cooling to mid-70s in the summer).
posted by aws17576 at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yes can it just be appropriate to outside.

That is all I want.
posted by sio42 at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is why I don't understand why they only sell a decent selection of women's sweaters in the fall. I only dont wear a sweater a few weekends out of the whole year. I can't be alone in this. The world is a cold place.

When I was in college I would sit and watch my feet turn blue in my sandals. At 3 different colleges. It was harder to dress for the AC in college cause there was a lot more schlepping around in the heat than I do now. Anyway this is a real thing. I'm cold right now wearing jeans, a sweater and boots.
posted by bleep at 12:52 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's no way I'm giving that article a click, so can somebody tell me if it addresses reverse-sexism in heating, the frustration we've all experienced where buildings are often heated to be too warm in the winter? Fix reverse-sexism, save the planet. blah blah blah
posted by entropicamericana at 12:52 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ha! My office has been having an ongoing battle between a guy who likes the AC around 80 and pretty much everyone else, but especially the woman, who turn it down.


I will chain myself to the thermostat and hunger strike if anyone thinks that 80 is a reasonable temperature to get work done in. At that point one stares forward in open-mouthed torpor hoping that humidity will be destroyed.

If my building didn't have only one electrical meter I'd keep my home AC at 80 to save money, sure. But it's impossible to think or do work.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


[A few comments removed. I should not have to tell people who have been here for freakin' ever where Metatalk is if what you want to do is talk about moderation or policy.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:55 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


My feelings about too cold air conditioning are don't make me set you on fire to warm myself.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:57 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Everyone just chill out. Or not, depending on your personal preference.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:58 PM on August 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm sitting here with a fan blowing at me, I'm hot, sticky and I can't think straight. Every now and then, I get up and go hide in a conference room that's literally 30 feet away but 10 degrees colder than my desk (I measured it). I stay there as long as my crazy meeting schedule and crappy laptop battery will allow.

If it were up to me, I'd have this fucking place so cold you could safely hang meats and cheeses from the drop-ceiling.

This doesn't make me sexist. This makes me Irish.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:01 PM on August 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Is 73 too cold? I set everything at 73. 6 foot 1 large bodied man.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2015


god my office was so cold i had to have lined winter pants and heavy wool sweaters and a down fucking vest on during the summer. plus a space heater turned up so high it smelled like firey death and a heating pad over my shoulders so i didn't crush my own spine with muscle spasms. and it was still a fucking unbearable ordeal.

no office ever needs to be cooled to 66 degrees at any time of year and anyone who argues otherwise is probably zombie reanimated hitler
posted by poffin boffin at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


This problem will not be solved until it becomes acceptable for men to wear shorts and flip-flops to the office.
Vote Jimmy Buffett in 2016!
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:05 PM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


i saw a lady in what was literally just a droopy/billowy cotton sack the other day, in blazing unbearable heat. she looked so happy. SACKS FOR ALL, BUTT SWEAT FOR NONE.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:07 PM on August 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


I often work in a datacenter environment and unfortunately the datacenter managers are way behind the times in terms of proper datacenter temperatures (which should be somewhere around 77-80) but we often hover in the mid 60s.

Needless to say I was freezing my ass off in shorts and a t-shirt during the last maintenance window because when I have to wake up at 2am to run patches I am not going to wear dress casual.
posted by vuron at 1:10 PM on August 3, 2015


My mentor in management used to say, the worker bees make more honey when they sense the frost. Have a poor performing / dysfunctional team; turn up the AC. It seemed like a nutty idea, but it has worked for me when other efforts were not succeeding.
posted by humanfont at 1:10 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The easiest solution is to get those upset by this news to blow hot air around, thus restoring thermodynamic equilibrium.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:11 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


it was probably around noon the day I discovered that the combination of the 70 degrees I keep my office at and the fabric of one of my tanktops made my nipples extremely apparent.

HOW APPARENT WERE THEY?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:14 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Air conditioners are set for suits with pants, not skirts with pantyhose.

Solution: everyone wear pants instead of skirts and pantyhose.


Fuck pants in the summertime.

Pantyhose? They are devilish sweat-generators I'm glad they're unfashionable mostly now.

Everyone can wear skirts, though. I'm good with that.
posted by emjaybee at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm just not sure anyone will be more comfortable swimming around in the tremendous sweatpocalypse that will happen at my desk.
posted by poe at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I could care less about offices where you can adjust to heat/cold by adjusting your layers that any sane person would keep handy in an office.

Where I want better climate control is on the bloody bus. I understand the driver wants to be warm in the winter when they strip down to inside clothes but NOBODY ELSE on the bus gets to do that!
posted by srboisvert at 1:16 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fuck pants in the summertime.

I'm not sure where you work, but my employer won't let me wear my fuck pants any time of the year.
posted by dr_dank at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2015 [27 favorites]


Okay! I clearly editorialized too much or not enough when I wrote that. I had hoped more of the discussion would center around the basis of metabolic rates being set on a standard that may not still be the right one in this day and age. I admit that the headline may be a little linkbaity.

For everybody who thinks the article may be slanted, I have since found another article on Wired that talks about the same paper but has more back and forth.

I was making a couple different points when I first linked this.

The sexism headline is Ars Technica's. I was editorializing when I pointed out that managers are disproportionately white and male. It's true, but not something the article says directly, so I can see how that was over-editorialized. However, the point about sexism is that it's often not malignant, but simply a consequence of demographics. Managers may not even notice because it's "fine" to them. If you want to see an exhausting article on this point, there was a great discussion on the blue about emotional labor.

As a 120-pound male in his twenties, I often found that my previous workplace frequently kept the office too cold, and literally every woman who worked in my side of the building on my floor also had a space heater (forbidden by fire code!). And it is frustrating to dress for two completely different temperatures, whether you're male or female, because office decorum demands clothes that cause you to sweat buckets outside but also frowns on wearing a blanket on your legs because a button-down shirt, undershirt, pants and thick socks just aren't enough to keep you warm. And it feels really perverse when the HVAC is making thundery noises all day long, and you know that people are ALSO using energy on space heaters at the same time. Granted, most of us thought it was a terrible office in HVAC terms, but there was clearly no sentiment that the senior management considered it a problem. I'm not saying they were actively sexist, but there weren't any women in the senior management at that office at that time.

Often utilities people set the temperature, but it's also often set or changed at the direction of managers.

I found it interesting that we were using metabolic rates calculated from a long time back from a given standard, and I agree that more research might be a good idea and we could revisit our baseline assumptions.

I tend to think that these are all connected. I'm not suggesting everybody should run out and start making arguments or connecting every piece of anecdata they've ever heard to this, only that we've all had enough different experiences to find this interesting.
posted by Strudel at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm in Florida. Indoors in Florida it is freezing. That is as it should be. Sure, we eat people's faces off and elected a batboy governor and allow our pythons to eat our toddlers and whateverall, but we do AC correctly. In other states where they don't understand anything because snow apparently destroys brain cells, there are sometimes un-airconditioned buildings in the summer. Like the Midwest. It's fine to refuse to air condition a private home. If you want to gasp and sweat and cry with misery all summer long like a prehistoric protohuman in your own home, that's fine. But in the summertime all nonresidential buildings must be freezing cold. This is so that you can walk in from out and feel immediately like you are back on Earth, not the surface of Venus. Thank you for reading, all of the Midwest. If you have an un-airconditioned sit-down restaurant that stays open in the summer, just lock up right now and go to jail. No, it does not make it okay that you serve ice cream. Loons.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:20 PM on August 3, 2015 [24 favorites]


...but I've got this bucket of anecdata and the temperature is perfect for running (while dressed sensibly)
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 1:20 PM on August 3, 2015


Life is too short.
I will spend any amount of money to keep my house no hotter than 60 degrees.
posted by wester at 1:22 PM on August 3, 2015


While I'm not sure about the AC specifically, I do like the overall point of thinking about how building design (or urban design) may be sexist. Considering that architecture and construction are very male-dominated, it makes sense there are potential elements of sexism in buildings. (Off the top of my head, I can think of lack of lactation rooms in offices or no changing tables in men's restrooms.) An aspect of that overall point is laid out in the article abstract, in which they specifically state that
Indoor climate regulations are based on an empirical thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s (ref. 2). Standard values for one of its primary variables—metabolic rate—are based on an average male, and may overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35% (ref. 3). This may cause buildings to be intrinsically non-energy-efficient in providing comfort to females. Therefore, we make a case to use actual metabolic rates.
(emphasis mine)

Furthermore, they then go on to say that "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." This is an attempt to examine "occupant behavior" with data/science based on real world situations in order to gain energy efficiency and drive more sustainable practices in an area of energy consumption that "adds up to about 30% of total carbon dioxide emissions; and occupant behaviour contributes to 80% of the variation in energy consumption."

Air conditioning is one of the marvels of our time. It allows us certain size buildings, industrial growth in certain climates, and additional actions like cooling down server rooms. It's also one of the many facets of energy consumption at which we will eventually be forced to direct our gaze. If it is sexist or isn't, thinking about these smaller issues draws attention to the larger context, although it's natural to not like hearing that our behavior may have to change either collectively or individually.
posted by barchan at 1:22 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


It also made the National Geographic ...
posted by Melismata at 1:23 PM on August 3, 2015


Everyone can wear skirts, though. I'm good with that.

SKIRT/SACKS '16
posted by poffin boffin at 1:23 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


As the one who (usually) controls the AC at my workplace, it has proved conclusively true that no setting pleases everyone, or even most. Some are carrying and moving, and are too hot; some are sitting or standing, and are too cold; some "run hot" and some don't. No matter what the setting, some are unhappy. We tend to set it cool because the chilly people can at least add clothing, but the sweaty ones can only take off so much.
And oddly, a two-degree change is enough to be felt and make people happier. And others unhappy again.

(Comment repurposed from
No one wants a nutty hypothalamus post, July 10, 2015)
posted by librosegretti at 1:26 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uhh, didn't we do this exact thread a month ago?

No one wants a nutty hypothalamus
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:31 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've actually been in the position of having back-end access to the HVAC systems at my workplace due to being the head of IT, and have been pulled into heating and cooling testing and employee complaints because of that. While sexism hasn't directly come up, I personally have been accused of not being empathetic to those who are cold because I'm big and the individuals complaining were smaller. Thankfully, I've always been rescued from the accusations by other individuals in the same HVAC zone who were of a similar body type as the complainant for whom the situation was reversed, and it was too warm.

Here's the deal: zoning heating and air conditioning systems is expensive. Very, very expensive. In all of the workplaces I've been in, when building out the space, a compromise had clearly been made between the number of air conditioning and heating zones and the comfort of employees as a cost consideration.

Your home or apartment was likely built with a single thermostat for multiple rooms or multiple floors, and you likely have lived somewhere where you've found that even if the thermostat gets heating and cooling precisely right in the location of the thermostat, other rooms or floors get uncomfortably hot or cold. It's the same thing with offices.

This results in situations where you have a thermostat in an open area that also controls the heating and cooling in enclosed rooms, or vice versa, or where there are large banks of windows in one area of the zone while other areas are completely shaded. As such, except in the most temperate weather, you end up with one extreme in the open or windowed areas, and another extreme in the enclosed or shaded areas.

The goal is to make the temperature acceptable on a basic level for everyone, and that's usually getting the temperature between 68 and 75 degrees everywhere in the zone. Raise the temperature for the people at 68, and the people who were at 75 will probably get really hot. Lower the temperature for the people at 75, and it gets cold enough to be hard to work or type for the people at 68.

So, why not upgrade the system with more zones? It costs a lot to upgrade the systems - sheet metal work, heating and cooling elements, system upgrades. I've gone through a few re-zoning projects for areas that were extremely problematic, and they've never cost less than five figures. It's usually not a just "get them out and fix it" or an "add a thermostat" kind of situation.

When you're too cold, its easy to think that the person in charge is just setting it to their own personal comfort level. On the other hand, you may have someone with access to the system who is really committed to trying to make sure everyone has a basic level of comfort, who doesn't even work in your area, and who has tested with an infrared thermometer throughout the zone in various situations and with various settings, and has done their best to get things set to the only setting where everyone is at room temperature - even if the area you're in is indeed pretty chilly. There is likely a situation where lots of different people are slightly uncomfortable in totally different ways, but if you adjust it further, you end up making things really bad for someone.

Before levying accusations of sexism or sizism, discuss the situation with whoever controls the HVAC. See if they'll explain or demonstrate the situation to you. I've experienced similar issues repeatedly, and it was always purely a technical and cost issue. I've had similar issues affect me directly, even though I'm a big guy, where my area was too cold, and I felt too cold. (I should also note that I myself take blood thinners that make me feel colder than others my size.) I think it's irresponsible for the writer of this article to not even discuss zoning issues.
posted by eschatfische at 1:31 PM on August 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


Paper chromatographologist, given that people aren't talking about metabolic rates in this thread, I would say, it looks very similar to that thread.

But metabolic rates and assumptions from a while ago were the point of the article linked initially.
posted by Strudel at 1:34 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Expensive to retrofit, got it. So why is new construction so stingy with the HVAC?
posted by Monochrome at 1:36 PM on August 3, 2015


I feel like a lot of the people here didn't actually read the article. I found it interesting that the metabolic rates used in the model were of a 40 year old average male. If that's the case then yes, energy efficiency for buildings surely needs more study since duh women are here too and we are very different potentially with our metabolic rates.

I've also always found it ridiculous that I can't just dress for the weather outside and isn't it a huge waste of energy to cool a building down to what feels like freezing and then also have women running space heaters? Because that happened at my office too.

Anyway glad to know that the model is a bit outdated and hopefully this gets more study.
posted by FireFountain at 1:37 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


As an architect, color me dubious. If there is one thing no HVAC designer wants it is call-backs. Systems are designed to make as many people as possible comfortable given the budget that the building owner is willing to spend. Building owners rarely spend the initially recommended budget. MET is an important factor, but even here, the variation they are claiming exists between men and women is comparable to or less than the variation between someone whose activity is reading versus someone whose activity is filing or collating papers while seated. If you actually have to stand to do your filing your metabolic rate change is bigger than this claimed difference.
It exists however, that there is fundamentally no way to make a place that is simultaneously comfortable to the worker in pants, shirt and jacket walking around and the employee in "summer attire" who is sitting at their desk reading. One will be hot, or the other cold.
It's a tough problem, but I don't think dated or sexist standards are the issue. (On preview, eschatfische has seen the same thing from the user end. There are sophisticated systems available that allow some level of control at every single desk, even in an open office environment, kind of like the multi-zone climate systems in a car. They of course are very expensive, and even then you may expect 1 in 20 people complaining about their comfort.)
posted by meinvt at 1:37 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you're that cold, bring a sweater. You can always add more clothes but removing clothes tends to be frowned upon at most workplaces.
posted by bgal81 at 1:39 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sometimes a sweater isn't enough. It depends on where you work. Besides that isn't the point of the post. It was about how the metabolic rates are different and that the assumption that we are all a 40 year old man is what goes into energy efficiency modeling.
posted by FireFountain at 1:41 PM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Enjoy the temperature preferred by your (likely older white male) managers.

Please let your post stand on it's on merit without bringing race into it. And doesn't complaining about offices being too cold smack of "first world problems"? Let's ask the people who work at Amazon warehouses what they think about air conditioning. Let's also acknowledge that it's easier for an employee to put on a sweater than it is for them to take off their shirt.
posted by Beholder at 1:43 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


One good side effect of an otherwise bad case of MS is that my wife now needs the house kept cold. Otherwise Uhthoff’s phenomenon sets in, and my wife finds it increasingly difficult to walk or talk.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:45 PM on August 3, 2015


Any ambient temperature above 70°F is obscene.

Maybe Earth is not for you.

(Maybe that's why you're trying to kill it?)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: “27 posts in and no one has mentioned nipplage effects.”
griphus: “So it was probably around noon the day I discovered that the combination of the 70 degrees I keep my office at and the fabric of one of my tanktops made my nipples extremely apparent.”
Speaking of nipples, keeping things warm in the office might not be the panacea people think it is.

“Male nipples become tools of 'sexual harassment' during summer, complain Japanese women,” Evie Lund, RocketNews24, 25 July 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 1:48 PM on August 3, 2015


Let's ask the people who work at Amazon warehouses what they think about air conditioning.

If you've read or listened to any interviews with warehouse workers you'll know that freezing temperatures are a pretty big complaint.
posted by phunniemee at 1:48 PM on August 3, 2015


I feel like a lot of the people here didn't actually read the article.

In our defense, the article is behind a paywall...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on August 3, 2015


No it's not. The journal is but not the article about what was written in the journal.
posted by FireFountain at 1:54 PM on August 3, 2015


Also Strudel provided another one too on Wired about the study. Read up thread to find his post.
posted by FireFountain at 1:55 PM on August 3, 2015


Oh FFS.

It's not a gender issue.

I'm a big guy. I wear short sleeves and loose fitting pants to work in the summer and I still sweat like a pig.

If you're cold, you can always layer up. I literally can't take any more clothes off.
posted by Oktober at 1:55 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Considering that architecture and construction are very male-dominated, it makes sense there are potential elements of sexism in buildings.

Skyscrapers might be the physical embodiment of phallic symbolatry, to some extent, but the real problem for humanity is that they are energetically inefficient, which magnify whatever wasteful HVAC settings are going on inside.

Surface area equals heat loss. More surface area requires more work to maintain at a given temperature. A better structure for maintaining temperature is a geodesic dome, by offering less surface area for the same relative volume.

Consider a cube of side length s. Its volume is s3.

Let's take a geodesic dome of radius r. Its volume is 2/3πr3.

We want to equate their volumes to fit the same people in a dome as in a (rectilinear) cube/skyscraper. This gives us r = 0.78s.

The surface area of a skyscraper cube is 5s2 (we take away a face of the cube since it touches the ground).

The surface area of a dome is 2πr2. We plug r = 0.78s into this and get a surface area of 3.83s2.

A skyscraper exposes 1.3 times more surface than a dome, for the same volume. So 30% of the surface area of a skyscraper leaks out cool air in the summer, and leaks in heat in the winter. It's just gone. To a measurably considerable degree, beyond the matter of AC settings, sexism is literally wasting usable energy.

There might be an argument in support of skyscrapers due to packing efficiencies, but gaps between buildings — streets or other legal boundaries — are wholly wasted volume, and skyscrapers are necessarily designed along a gradient between a rectilinear or tapered/cone-like shape, which worsens the energy problem.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:56 PM on August 3, 2015


The right temperature for inside is about 60F/15C.

Because the right way for civilized humans to live is in their schluffies, with slipper socks on, under a blankie, and sipping some nice hot tea/coffee/cider/cocoa. And with a well-puppied or well-kittied lap.

Luckily, I live someplace where about seven or eight months of the year living this way makes me frugal!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


> If you're that cold, bring a sweater

Doesn't help my hands, although I also have Reynaud's Syndrome, so I'm doubly-doomed.
posted by suelac at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


If your hands are cold, try Arthritis Gloves. I got these for both my mom and grandmother, they're super lightweight and keep your hands warm all day.
posted by Oktober at 2:01 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Let's have an insanely complex technological solution! At-desk voting apps where people can report their current thermal comfort.

Hey, we have that at my office. It actually works _fairly_ well, everyone can vote once every 10 minutes and it takes like an average and learns preferences over time. Each room has its own independent temperature setting (including conference rooms, not just offices). Of course, it relies on self-reported location (so you can tell it you're in a conference room instead of your normal workspace) so it can be trolled, but otherwise its actually a pretty good solution, or at least a huge improvement.
posted by thefoxgod at 2:02 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I work with accounting software, and I have made many site visits to accounting departments - particularly in open-plan multi-floor glass-wall buildings - where almost every desk has a space heater under it, cranked to full throttle. One accounting department actually had a call-and-response routine to warn that they were about to send a check run to the printer so everyone had to turn their heaters off or the printer would brown out and screw up the check run.

But I always thought that was because the accounting persons got put in the area with the largest open space (because they had to talk to each other so much), which would end up freezing because the people in the wall-side offices - on the same HVAC zone but sitting up against outside-facing glass - were hot. This was especially obvious in Texas where I was sometimes surprised that weather didn't form in the doorways to the offices, it was so cold inside and so hot against those glass walls.

I do think better environmental controls (especially in very humid and very dry climates, where moisture control is as significant to ambient comfort as temperature) and smarter ducting/zoning would improve a lot of this.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:05 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm neither dismissing nor supporting the claims about a general trend here but my experience is that there's a lot of individual variation here. My S.O. and I invariably disagree about whether it's too hot or too cold, but in all sorts of different directions at different times. And in my parents' house it's always been "the guys" arguing with my mother for more heat or more A/C - but that's probably because she is the most committed environmentalist and common-sense "go put on a sweater."

And I'm always too cold in the office, but then so is everybody but our boss. Who is a middle aged man, but I'd wager it's body fat percentage that makes the difference.
posted by atoxyl at 2:10 PM on August 3, 2015


I'm in Houston. Dressing for the weather outside is simple - go inside and turn the AC on.
posted by Ambient Echo at 2:11 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


And I will never understand why buildings in Houston don't have massive insulation along the outer walls. I know it would cost some more initially, but damn. Thick walls keep the outside out!
posted by Ambient Echo at 2:13 PM on August 3, 2015


I wear short sleeves and loose fitting pants to work in the summer and I still sweat like a pig.

Then bring a towel.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:18 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


A skyscraper exposes 1.3 times more surface than a dome

How does the math account for the traversal of the sun across the sky? At some point, no matter how it's oriented, at least one of the surface areas of a skyscraper is facing away from the sun. Wouldn't a dome always have more overall sun exposure because it won't have the same shaded/non-shaded aspect to it?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:23 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: "Then bring a towel."

Why? We're not nudists, Terry.
posted by boo_radley at 2:25 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The average household spends much more heating itself in the Winter than it does cooling itself in the summer.
I imagine the same holds true for businesses.

How much energy will be exerted making the thermostat settings of our offices fair, that could be devoted to making them more efficient, regardless of the comfort of the employees?
posted by shenkerism at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just wish buildings would optimize their air temperatures for people wearing clothing appropriate to outside.

I realize this problem is minor in the grand scheme of life, but I only wish as a guy working in a white-collar job that I could wear clothes appropriate to outside in the middle of July. (I wore shorts to commute every single summer day last year in DC because I'm that serious about evading heat and only wish that I could also have worn shorts into the office.)
posted by andrewesque at 2:29 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you're cold, you can always layer up. I literally can't take any more clothes off.

It seems like you are saying that it's ok for us to be uncomfortable as long as you are comfortable. At my last office I would frequently wear multiple sweaters and it wouldn't be enough without a space heater. I would still be suffering. Why can't the men be hot and uncomfortable for a change and the women be more comfortable?

Anyway the point is too that if its that cold and people are ALSO running space heaters it's a huge waste of energy. And that maybe we need to think better about balancing the energy usage in a building and not use out dating modeling when setting up an HVAC system.
posted by FireFountain at 2:29 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


If your hands are cold, try Arthritis Gloves. I got these for both my mom and grandmother, they're super lightweight and keep your hands warm all day.


Thank you! As I work in an office that is, essentially, part of the warehouse, it's usually freezing back here 9 months out of the year. I have a space heater and all my work clothes are made for winter but I wasn't sure how to take care of my hands.

I would still be suffering. Why can't the men be hot and uncomfortable for a change and the women be more comfortable?

I'm a woman and while the cold sucks, the heat sucks more as I have to maintain a certain professional dress even though I work in a warehouse. No bare-shoulders or flip-flops or shorts for me.
posted by bgal81 at 2:30 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've gotten into so many "it's too cold!" vs. "it's wicked hot in heah!" fights with coworkers over the years but I always loose them because they can always tell me to bring in a sweater and I can't very well tell them to remove their pants.

Well, you could, but you're probably going to have a meeting with HR pretty soon...
posted by madajb at 2:33 PM on August 3, 2015


The average household spends much more heating itself in the Winter than it does cooling itself in the summer.
I imagine the same holds true for businesses.


Nope. Businesses are full of people, computers/machines, and lights, which will all serve to sufficiently heat a space in a number of climates, even in winter. When I used to work designing buildings in California, we didn't even bother putting heat in commercial buildings, while we'd at least put forced air in a house. But, all that heat generation means a lot more load for the AC in the summer, significantly more than your standard residence.
posted by LionIndex at 2:41 PM on August 3, 2015


How does the math account for the traversal of the sun across the sky?

The sun would be heating space around, at minimum (sunrise), two of the five faces of a skyscraper, or 2s2, and very nearly 5s2, at maximum (solar noon).

In the case of the geodesic dome, the sun would directly heat, at minimum, half of the dome surface, or πr2. If r = 0.78s, then the minimum comparison is π(0.78s)2 or 1.9s2. Depending on the time of year and latitude, the sun's highest position may not shine over the entire dome, but assuming that it did, then the maximum exposed surface would be the whole dome, or 3.83s2.

There are some complicating factors. It would be necessary to measure how long the sun spends at a given position in the sky from sunrise until solar noon, with respect to how much sunlight each face receives. Then the latitude of the buildings will determine the relative "height" or altitude of the sun over the horizon, so unless these buildings are on the equator, for instance, not all of the dome or skyscraper surface would be lit evenly at solar noon.

But with some back-of-the-envelope simplifications, given the minimum and maximum surface area exposed in both cases, it seems like the geodesic dome still wins out.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:46 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This logic applies to the workplace as well. Dress for success, people!

I'm just going to assume that everyone here isn't a young child and does know what sort of clothing is appropriate for their work place.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:47 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my head I'm picturing reading this thread to someone from 300 years ago. "You mean to tell me these fucks have figured out a way to actually make heat without having to constantly chop and haul wood and without greasy nasty black shit constantly getting all over everything indoors, and the ability to make coldness somehow for when it's hot, and they still aren't satisfied?!?"
posted by Rhomboid at 2:49 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


while the cold sucks, the heat sucks more

See also: sweat.

My solution to this: reclassify snuggies as professional business attire.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


We're sticking with outdated and obsolete forms of dress. Suits are fine and dandy when it's spring, fall, and especially winter. For summer? Formal wear--especially for men--makes NO sense. My office is pretty casual most days, and people really, really like the dress code, which is basically no shorts, and wear a button-up shirt of any kind, which includes polo shirts. That's about it. We stay cool, the AC isn't ridiculously low.

Just get rid of formal wear in summer because it's fucking stupid.
posted by zardoz at 2:54 PM on August 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


LionIndex:
That's an excellent point. It does however bring to mind the thousands of completely un-HVAC'ed warehouses and breezeways, that house welders, grinders, saws, mills, mechanics, crate-builders, are mostly occupied by men, and where requests for temperature control are basically a joke.

I worked in a steel fab breezeway in a port, and the coldest I've been at work is there working swing shift in the winter. The warmest I've been at work is also there, working day shift in the summer. Wearing thick pants, steel-toe boots, long sleeve shirts and a hardhat is mandated and necessary.
posted by shenkerism at 2:56 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a developer, so the temperature issues in our office can't be attributed to the wishes of men wearing business suits. For there are no such men on the entire floor.

No, our problem is the vast temperature differential, to the extent that I might need a hoodie at my desk (right under the vent) whereas someone on my team who's two desks across and one desk over might need a fan at her desk. This isn't the first place I've worked that had this problem.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:59 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, I'm really surprised at the reactions to this article. You're a woman and you like cold offices, therefore this problem can't disproportionately affect women? Pointing out possible sexism is just a way to get clicks? An air-conditioned office is better than an Amazon warehouse or an office in the 1800s so stop complaining? You can always put a sweater on?

I have always observed that women are the large majority of people who are uncomfortable in cold offices (if an office is too hot, it will be fixed immediately.) If that's not you, that's great. But in a lot of offices I've been in, wearing a sweater isn't enough. I have to wear long sleeves, pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes in the summer. In the winter, I don't wear my nice coat because the elbows are going to wear thin from wearing it at my desk. Or I keep an extra coat at my desk. My hands are still cold, and it's hard to type in gloves. The women around me are equally uncomfortable. It's hard for us to concentrate.

But I guess I could always put a (third) sweater on.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:01 PM on August 3, 2015 [15 favorites]


But if you're colder you can control your own personal temperature by wearing a sweater, cardigan, jacket, etc.

I'll just sit on my hands and stare at the computer all day then?
posted by jeather at 3:01 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Being cold is good for you. You're welcome, women!

Mwahahahaha.
posted by OnTheLastCastle
I don't know why it took reading this thread to make me see it, but keeping spaces warm is actually crucial to the health of pre-menopausal women.

For the very simple reason that cold will activate brown fat, which we might mistakenly think is a good thing, but it does so by stimulating the adrenals, which then produce adrenalin which attaches to receptors on the brown fat.

The problem is that at the same time they are producing the adrenalin the adrenals are also producing testosterone, and excess testosterone is a prime cause of PCOS -- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome-- which is a major cause of infertility and a bunch of other bad things in the women who develop it.
posted by jamjam at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, and some peri-menopausal women, such as myself, don't really have a problem with hot flashes, but their direct opposite: cold flashes. So I start out in a place where I'm already cold, and then one of those things hits, and I'm well beyond the help another layer of clothing can provide.
posted by skybluepink at 3:17 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm in Houston.

Same here. For the American South, giving up AC is simply not an option, especially at night when the temp settles into a "cool" 80 degrees.
posted by Beholder at 3:33 PM on August 3, 2015


The sun would be heating space around, at minimum (sunrise), two of the five faces of a skyscraper, or 2s2, and very nearly 5s2, at maximum (solar noon).

(emphasis mine)

Thank you for the extra math. But ... wouldn't the minimum be just one face?

Let's say you have a rectangular skyscraper that is oriented to the four compass points. For shits and giggles, let's say we're at the equator (and maybe there's a perfectly spherical cow, too).

Sun rises, hits the east face. The other faces are untouched. At noon, the roof is the only face in direct light. Then, after noon, the west face gets lit up directly, and the east face is shaded. North and south don't ever face the sun directly.

You could even orient a thin, rectangular skyscraper so the thin faces are in the sun most often, reducing exposure further. A dome doesn't offer any flexibility.

But now we're splitting hairs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:37 PM on August 3, 2015


I'm not sure if it's because I'm accessing it through my University's connection, but I can read the article without a paywall at the moment.

Reading through the actual article, their claim seems to be that the professional organization for HVAC contractors based their original recommended settings on data that came from a time when a majority of office workers fit a certain profile.
Two main input variables for the model are metabolic rate and clothing insulation; however, the accuracy of these variables is in general poorly defined... Nevertheless, standard reference values for the metabolic rate and clothing are tabulated and used worldwide... With respect to the metabolic rate, the metabolic equivalent (MET) is used to express the metabolic cost of an activity relative to the resting metabolic rate, and its value (1 MET  =  4.186 kJ kg−1 h−1 ≈ 58 W m−2) is set by convention based on the resting metabolic rate of only one 70 kg, 40-year-old male
Their recommendation is resetting the standard to reflect greater gender parity implicit in modern work environments. It's a pilot study (freely admitted in both the Ars link and the article itself), but points towards further work with larger samples.

To me the problem seems to be a classic structural inequality. Because of sexism in society at the time the standards were established, offices are primed towards a male ideal of temperature (not all offices, but certainly those using the standard). Further patriarchal thought processes have left this particular standard as unexamined, and given it the assumed status of the norm. An add-on effect is that our office buildings are likely much colder than they need be, increasing emissions due to increased power requirements to cool to that temperature.

While there's some validity to the idea that it's easier to cover up than to strip down, I don't think that anyone involved in the FPP links is saying that we should instantly reset to a level that's only comfortable for women in the office. Rather, the conclusions point towards the idea that we are using an outdated and marginally useful metric to make largescale decisions with important personal and environmental consequences, and we should realign that metric in order to create environments that are more comfortable for everyone.
posted by codacorolla at 3:38 PM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


If you're cold, you can always layer up. I literally can't take any more clothes off.

my literal next step would have been a flame retardant suit covered with a layer of napalm with a slightly larger sized flame retardant suit over that. i was in so much intense agonizing physical pain from my arthritis being bombarded by icy cold air that i was taking up to 40mg of muscle relaxants per day and enough pain meds to make my stomach bleed. at that point actually just being on fire would have been an ecstasy unlike any other known to mankind.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:57 PM on August 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you for the extra math. But ... wouldn't the minimum be just one face?

There is heat from the sunlight coming head-on, but also heat from the now-warmer air surrounding the building faces north and south of the east-most face. At sunrise, a building oriented 45° to the sun would shine (deflected) light along two faces, north-east and south-east, but also only warmed air outside those two surfaces.

To get a better answer, we'd need to model how surfaces exchange heat with the surrounding environment. Maybe sunlight directed head-on at one surface is better than sunlight beaming (even at a deflection angle) at two surfaces. Maybe the cooling loss between a surface and heated air is a less significant factor.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:58 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reading through the actual article, their claim seems to be that the professional organization for HVAC contractors based their original recommended settings on data that came from a time when a majority of office workers fit a certain profile.

They probably picked the heuristic that padded their recommendations out, considering their financial interests.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:59 PM on August 3, 2015


> When I used to work designing buildings in California, we didn't even bother putting heat in commercial buildings

I worked in one of those spaces that was designed to be heated by human bodies and equipment - At least that was the excuse that maintenance gave us. While that may work great in CA, it didn't work very well in the freezing KY winters we had while I was there - Imagine an office full of people working in winter coats and fingerless gloves, and conference rooms where you could see your own breath. I went to the data center - which was on separate climate control, as they generally are - to WARM UP.

We ended up with several of those radiator style space heaters in the middle of the hallways, everyone would huddle around them with their laptops like a little camp fire.

Lighting has gone increasingly "green" with LED/CFL lights - both of which put out almost no heat - and computers have drastically increased thermal efficiency in a short amount of time. In fairness, that solution probably made a ton of economic sense when every computer, appliance, and halogen light was a small space heater...
posted by MysticMCJ at 4:03 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


They probably picked the heuristic that padded their recommendations out, considering their financial interests.

I'm not an HVAC expert, but doing a bit of searching does indicate that ASHRAE standards are generally recognized by people in charge of setting temperatures. Here is an example of an ASHRAE manual for setting hospital HVAC temperatures. From what I understand of friends who are engineers this sort of technical manual is a baseline for doing any sort of work. From ASHRAE's website,
ASHRAE writes standards for the purpose of establishing consensus for: 1) methods of test for use in commerce and 2) performance criteria for use as facilitators with which to guide the industry. ASHRAE publishes the following three types of voluntary consensus standards: Method of Measurement or Test, Standard Design and Standard Practice. ASHRAE does not write rating standards unless a suitable rating standard will not otherwise be available.

Consensus standards are developed and published to define minimum values or acceptable performance, whereas other documents, such as design guides, may be developed and published to encourage enhanced performance.
Perhaps I'm wrong. You're making claims that a peer reviewed publication accepted an article which is creating a straw man by citing a little-used standard to "pad out" their findings. That's a pretty serious claim, and I'd be interested to see you actually back that up with information as to the standard they could've used. You also seem to be indicating that the authors are doing so for their own financial gain. I'd be curious to know what that is too.
posted by codacorolla at 4:14 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think our office is totally neutral temperature-wise*, but one of my coworkers (to be fair, I think she sits right under a vent) loves to bitch, "It's COLD in here all of a sudden!" Or "It's WARM in here all of a sudden!" when nothing has changed whatsoever. And she categorically refuses to put on a damn jacket or sweater because then she's too hot! Gaaaaaaaaah. If you're gonna whine about the temperature, which you have no control over, do something for yourself! Or pick "too hot" or "too cold" and stick with it already.

* my office is almost entirely female, so I think we should calibrate it to that...then again, maybe we do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:29 PM on August 3, 2015


I'm pretty sure everyone is cold in every office. At my office, everyone wears these stupid fleece vest things with the company logo on it. They're just for wearing in the office because the AC is strong. I've seen that at a lot of other offices too. In the finance industry brokers often give them out as swag.

I don't like strong AC, but at the end of the day I'd prefer to sit in close quarters with a bunch of cold people than a bunch of really sweaty people.
posted by pravit at 4:39 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


dude, false dilemma.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


At my office, everyone wears these stupid fleece vest things with the company logo on it.

At my old office we bought everyone hoodies, fleeces, and fleece blankets. People who sat under air vents wore all three at once. Several folks wore gloves.

When your employees are sitting huddled at their desks cloaked like sith lords it's probably time to reconsider the HVAC situation.
posted by phunniemee at 5:14 PM on August 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Next up: toilet seats.
posted by um at 5:15 PM on August 3, 2015


As a person who wears a blanket on my lap and slippers on my feet most of the year at work (we're not allowed to use space heaters), I came in here to bemoan my poor, icy hands, which must remain out in the cold, frozen hellscape of my desk so that I can use my computer and saw the link for the arthritis gloves and now I am happy.

(regular gloves slow down my typing as well as not doing much to warm the backs of my hands, which are the parts that get the coldest. There have been days where I've found a spare matchbook in my purse and seriously considered taking a minute or two to huddle around the warmth of a flame, JUST LIKE THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL)
posted by triggerfinger at 5:26 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Next up: toilet seats.

Oh, are you being glib? Because there's some actual sexism going on with office bathrooms.

Like for instance, how in high rise office buildings (the same kind that suffer from the walk in freezer cooling problem) women's restrooms are almost always kept locked, while men's are not. It's like pulling teeth (if not outright impossible) to get building management to leave the restrooms permanently unlocked. It's for "safety" because men could just waltz right on into the bathrooms and rape us if we're not careful.

So what this means in practice is that any time a woman needs to pee or take a shit or change a tampon or be sick or wash her hands or just escape from the office for 5 minutes she's got to carry a key with her (most office-appropriate clothing for women doesn't have pockets, may I remind you), announcing to everyone who sees her her intent to use the bathroom. And if you're a woman visiting the office? A client or a vendor? Well, then you have to ask someone for a key, and then it's attached to some tchotchke so it doesn't get lost, and someone has to wait on you to get the key back. And heaven help you if you have some kind of emergency but someone else has the key and you don't know when they'll get back.

It's obnoxious as hell and it's something most women in office buildings have to deal with multiple times per day that most men in office buildings don't have to think about at all.

So yeah, lolz, toilet seats.
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


This one time I worked in an office that was so cold I had to cut open my Tauntaun for warmth

Every day
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:32 PM on August 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I worked in a large state government office for a time, with about a dozen men and over a hundred women of all ages. There were several thermostats on our floor and there was quite the controversy over the settings. One night, over a few beers, the deputy director confided to me that every thermostat was unplugged. By regulation the capital maintenance staff set the temperature at 68 all year long.
posted by Ber at 5:35 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Starting around April or May I start needing to bring extra shirts with me to work. This is in case I have to step outside at any point, because I will sweat through my shirt and need to either wear a different one or just sit in my sweat. And I have to time changing shirts properly, because if I change too early after coming inside my body will not have cooled down yet and I'll sweat through the fresh shirt, too. It is extremely gross. So you can imagine my joy at working in a building that keeps things around a nice 18-20C. I know it's terrible for the planet, but dammit, the sweaty people can live.
posted by schroedinger at 5:58 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


For those who need to quote chapter and verse to get a reasonable setting, you can use this:
A general recommendation is that the temperature be held constant in the range of 21-23°C (69-73°F). In summertime when outdoor temperatures are higher it is advisable to keep air-conditioned offices slightly warmer to minimize the temperature discrepancy between indoors and outdoors.--"Thermal comfort" / Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
I hope that provides some comfort. I've had to fight this out a couple of times.
posted by No Robots at 6:02 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I have a solution that would work for everybody: more vacation time in the summer! Like a month off during the hottest month for your respective climate! Bosses can shut the buildings down, saving money! People can relax and be healthier!

Oh but wait, that would be socialism or something.
posted by bonje at 6:20 PM on August 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't know why it took reading this thread to make me see it, but keeping spaces warm is actually crucial to the health of pre-menopausal women.

For the very simple reason that cold will activate brown fat, which we might mistakenly think is a good thing, but it does so by stimulating the adrenals, which then produce adrenalin which attaches to receptors on the brown fat.

The problem is that at the same time they are producing the adrenalin the adrenals are also producing testosterone, and excess testosterone is a prime cause of PCOS -- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome-- which is a major cause of infertility and a bunch of other bad things in the women who develop it.


The adrenal glands can produce androgens, but is this inextricable/linked to the same stimuli as the production of adrenalin? PCOS risk has been observed in trans men taking hormones, so elevated testosterone may be a contributing factor, but more often the cause is disregulation of pituitary hormones which induces the ovaries themselves to produce more testosterone. I don't know enough to say if this particular hypothesis of yours is plausible. But I've seen you throw out some really shaky ideas about biomedical subjects that I do know something about, and I've seen people favorite these comments as though they are educational. Might I induce you to accompany this sort of speculation with a clearer disclaimer?
posted by atoxyl at 6:29 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I had this argument more on the submarine than I do in the office. It's not like you can go outside if you don't like it. I gave up on the bunkroom temperature. I mean, sure, I can put on more clothes than you can take off, still not convinced. The theory I couldn't argue with, though, was: people who are too cold don't start stinking.

Then the Chief of the Boat decided my three wool blankets were unauthorized, and that I couldn't wear my sweater because it wasn't the winter uniform season. I remember thinking, what is this, BUD/S training? So I switched my watch station to engine room upper level where I could sit between the turbine steam piping and enjoy the heat like a cat in the sunshine.
posted by ctmf at 6:41 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Atoxyl, thank you for saying something - that "cold leads to increased PCOS risk" claim didn't pass the smell test for me either, but I didn't have the background to know for certain.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The theory I couldn't argue with, though, was: people who are too cold don't start stinking.

Normally it's bad strategy to throw down a challenge like that to a submariner. You may not want to use that argument if you work with similar people.
posted by ctmf at 6:50 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I have PCOS. Even if cold air could aggravate it, you could pry my office AC from my cold, dead hands because my preferred temperature setting is Whitewalker.
posted by Ashen at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Before levying accusations of sexism or sizism, discuss the situation with whoever controls the HVAC. ... I think it's irresponsible for the writer of this article to not even discuss zoning issues.

Again, however, the article is not accusing people who control the HVAC of being sexist or sizist: it is reporting that a commonly used model for calculating the ideal temperature for a building was calibrated on men only, and that a newer model takes both men and women into account. If it's the case that leaving women out of the first model changes it significantly so that more men than women would be comfortable at work (which I'm not sure the authors have actually shown), then that is indeed an example of structural inequality working against women. Regardless of the text in this specific FPP, HVAC zoning issues are not relevant to the point that the actual linked article is making, which is a relatively narrow point about a specific calculation.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:53 PM on August 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Atoxyl, thank you for saying something - that "cold leads to increased PCOS risk" claim didn't pass the smell test for me either, but I didn't have the background to know for certain.

Well I don't either. I'm just alert to jamjam's tendency to throw around bonkers claims about other parts of the brain and body which I'm more familiar with. The psychopharmacological ones especially, my favorite being when he claimed that Ecstasy binds to NMDA receptors - as if neuroreceptors were confused by the similarity of acronyms.

This one is out of my wheelhouse but just looking stuff up he's taking a few distinct strands of real science (which may or may not mean quite what he suggested) and tying them together into an extremely speculative hypothesis. I suppose his comment acknowledges that this is something that he just thought up for this thread but unless he is going to tell me he is an expert on the subject I really wish he would preface all such speculation with a warning that he is definitely not.
posted by atoxyl at 7:12 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This would be less of an issue if they would start making women's dresses with freakin' sleeves again.
posted by missmerrymack at 7:17 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


she's got to carry a key with her (most office-appropriate clothing for women doesn't have pockets, may I remind you)

That's why those springy plastic keychain bracelets are a thing. They cost like a dollar. Nurses seem to wear 'em all the time, I guess for the Giant Room Of Drugs or whatever.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:30 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll gladly wear a sweater in the office during the summer in exchange for that moment of pure bliss when you step from the heat outside into the AC. I am a delicate flower and heat makes me wilt.
posted by bendy at 7:33 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm thinking Ralph Lauren and the folks who design submarine wear.

I worked briefly for a guy who made huge cooling systems for GM and other industrial facilities. I remember one unit was installed in a plant and the workers lowered the temp despite being told it could damage the system. They did it anyways and the boss would fix until GM blamed his work. He showed management the tampering and the solution was to weld sheet metel near the control unit and surround it with mesh and this things sucked liked 1,200,000 BTUs. Size of a 5 Buicks.

That plant was torn down 10 years ago.
posted by clavdivs at 7:36 PM on August 3, 2015


This would be less of an issue if they would start making women's dresses with freakin' sleeves again.

You blame Michelle Obama for that. She shows off some rockin' biceps, and you know, suddenly everyone has to get tickets to the gun show...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:39 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, so when it's 95 degrees outside we should cool our offices to suit men wearing business-mandated inappropriate clothing for the weather, i.e. suits, and ask the women wearing weather-appropriate clothing to bring extra clothing to wear?

I know sexism claims can be tedious, but how you can not see an element of patriarchy at play in that dynamic? Not in the sense that men are oppressing women, but in the way that rigid gender roles fuck things up for everyone.

If our society considered a greater range of clothing appropriate for men in the workplace - like shorts or even, gasp, skirts - we could all dress appropriately for the summer, stop cooling our offices to winter-like temperatures because we've decided men still have to dress like it's the 1950s, and the problem would be mitigated. It's not gonna happen anytime soon, but rigid gender roles about clothing absolutely play a part in why we have this dumb problem in the first place.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:58 PM on August 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


As someone whose job involves always looking for ways to address/mitigate/solve problems like this, if someone has a better idea for keeping perverts from "accidentally" walking into the women's restrooms, I'd love to hear it.

Maybe--and this is going to sound crazy so bear with me--fire the perverts?
posted by phunniemee at 9:11 PM on August 3, 2015 [26 favorites]


The good thing about an overly cold office is I can always layer on more discarded printing for warmth. But if it's too hot, there are only so many articles of clothing I can remove before we're all presented with an entirely different problem.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:15 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mr. Roquette is a very tall man. I am a very short woman. He feels both heat and cold more than I do.
We both are close to heat exhaustion all Winter because they have the heat in our building on far too high. At least in Summer we can cool off with the air conditioner. I get hot flashes if I am too hot. His hands and feet freeze on him if he's too cold.
He also does get too hot outdoors. Pants really are bad. They hold in all the body heat. Skirts really are a lot better for keeping cool.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:27 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Systems are designed to make as many people as possible comfortable given the budget that the building owner is willing to spend.

Hahahahahaha. Let me tell you about this one office I worked at. The temperature for the entire half of the building, divided on a North-south line was controlled by a single thermostat in the manager's office. The manager's SOUTH facing office. The south facing office with huge windows. If the thermostat was set at a level where she was comfortable, the air conditioners would be constantly roaring in the admin area, summer and winter. HVAC said they couldn't do anything, since they'd have to rip out the entire system. I had on the average, a sinus infection every month in that place.

They finally started to fix the system after the seagull fell through the ceiling onto my boss's desk, but before then it was a nightmare.
posted by happyroach at 9:35 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


i agree with the above comment about FIRE, more fire should be involved in the workplace, great roaring flames
posted by poffin boffin at 9:40 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Of all the places... China's ahead of the game (2007):

Casualwear for the Climate: Chinese Workers Told to Wear T-Shirts to Save Energy
posted by meowzilla at 12:05 AM on August 4, 2015


50 years later, it's possible for the original standards to be sexist/biased and the preference for the majority of people in any given office today. (Especially with increased body weight, more women working into their later years, and many newer types of common medications with relevant side effects.)
posted by Room 641-A at 3:28 AM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


As someone currently sweating his balls off because his elderly coworker hates the air conditioning, I yearn for some of that blessed coolness.

Come on, winter.
posted by ELF Radio at 3:38 AM on August 4, 2015


I've worked for several years with my desk in the back of a warehouse. In the winter it gets as cold as ~40f, in the summer it can hit 88-90. We've had plenty of equipment blow up, but it just doesn't make economic sense to try and HVAC the space since it's 100 years old and it will all just go straight out the walls/windows and is being demolished in a few years anyways.

I'm on team too-hot-all-the-time. Anything over 65f outside or so and i'm sweaty, especially if there's sun. I realize i'm a bit of an outlier on that. I'm also a VERY sweaty person. Like, pit shirts out to my belt line.

Nonetheless, i also have spider hands, arthritis runs in my family, and the beginnings of carpal tunnel(which i've been batting back with the help of a hand surgeons recommendations)

Conclusion: Cold makes my hands freeze up, and makes typing miserable. Sitting at my desk in a sweater while my feet freeze in sneakers or dress shoes i popped on after taking off my likely soaked boots is also miserable.

If it's hot? Well, i got a couple of super powered fans and just crank them. Not blowing straight at me necessarily, but just moving air. Pitting my shirt out? Wear an undershirt and a dark shirt. Meh, fuck it.

As much as i wilt in heat, the 75+ degree room is SO MUCH better to work in than the under 60f room. And if i had to choose between 68 with cold air blasting on me and 75+, i'd choose hot every time.

I feel like i'm betraying my team for saying this, but SMASH THE A/C-ARCHY.

The city raised the AC temps on their buses to 73, why the fuck can't everyone else? 68f with cold air blowing on my hands is a recipe for them locking up like a car that just smashed its oil pan off on a speed bump.

I always hate the heat of the summer until i have to work inside somewhere that they literally cool it to colder than the minimum heat setting in the winter. I always forget how much i hate it until mid july or the beginning of august. Who ever thought that made sense? Why heat to like, 72, but cool to 68? What?

The obvious equitable solution here is to AC to like 75, and give everyone personal fans or blowers of some variety. Moving air does more to cool you than sitting in a generically cold room, speaking from experience of that being my only option in this place. Up to a certain temperature i'd rather have a ceiling fan than AC.
posted by emptythought at 5:03 AM on August 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wait, so when it's 95 degrees outside we should cool our offices to suit men wearing business-mandated inappropriate clothing for the weather, i.e. suits, and ask the women wearing weather-appropriate clothing to bring extra clothing to wear?

I'm confused by this premise because wouldn't the majority of jobs that require or encourage men to wear full business attire also generally frown upon women wearing sleeveless or even short sleeve tops? Or anything less than a knee length skirt?

My office is very casual and I still never wear sleeveless tops without a jacket, and short sleeves very rarely.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:12 AM on August 4, 2015


This whole "just put on a sweater!" schtick is tired, and disingenuous.

I carry a cardigan everywhere I go, and that is fine with me. Go somewhere airconditioned, put it on, take it off before going outside. Aces. One portable sweater is sufficient to combat the AC in movie theaters, restaurants, stores-- all kinds of places kept nicely cool but not overly so.

But there are a lot of offices where putting on a sweater is not sufficient. You have to put on a sweater, and a blanket, and a coat, on bad days. People come by my desk and marvel at the gusting WINDS of freezing air that blow directly on my head. This is not people complaining about 70 degrees (for the most part). This is people complaining about office spaces cranked down to 60 degrees, or even 55 (the temperature I recently found a conference room's thermostat set at, truly). I sometimes go to the bathroom just to run my hands under the hot water for a few moments.

I don't want my office to be 80 degrees. I don't even want it to be 75. But I dare to dream of a temperature above the low 60s. I yearn for a temperature where "put on a sweater" is actually enough to make the temperature doable.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:27 AM on August 4, 2015


People who live in cold-weather climates, what happens in the winter?

Like for instance, how in high rise office buildings (the same kind that suffer from the walk in freezer cooling problem) women's restrooms are almost always kept locked, while men's are not.

FWIW, in my experience men's and women's restrooms are both kept locked in buildings here, but I assume that's to keep out the homeless. This also means that half the time I grab the wrong key and have to go back.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:40 AM on August 4, 2015


I'm confused by this premise because wouldn't the majority of jobs that require or encourage men to wear full business attire also generally frown upon women wearing sleeveless or even short sleeve tops? Or anything less than a knee length skirt?

Nah, not in my experience in DC, at least, which is a formal town. Typical summer attire for women is a dress (these are mostly sleeveless these days, like sheaths) or a nice blouse plus pencil skirt. Maybe with a jacket. A knee length skirt still doesn't overheat the body nearly as much as pants do. Consider that women's clothing is often thinner and made from lighter material then men's, too.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:55 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who live in cold-weather climates, what happens in the winter?

The last time I worked in an actual office was in Chicago. What happened was that everyone brought in a space heater and plugged it in under their desk. Inevitably we shorted out the circuit and annoyed the maintenance man.

Because I'm cool that way, I also briefly rocked a set of USB-powered hand warmers to try to counteract the frigid winter environment, but after forgetting I was tethered to my laptop few too many times I had to give that up lest I also annoy the tech support folks.

Basically, it was never warm enough (but I'm from Florida and am pretty much never warm enough anyway - I don't think for me it's tied to the fact that I'm a lady).
posted by DingoMutt at 7:04 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who live in cold-weather climates, what happens in the winter?

in the winter it's freezing again because the a/c jerks blast it then too instead of just OPENING THEIR WINDOWS TO THE FREE COLD AIR. but this time everyone is already dressed for subzero temperatures so it's slightly less terrible.

also space heaters, we had the entire office rewired so everyone could have an individual space heater without shorting out/overloading the entire floor. this was the actual solution to the a/c issue, not to ask the people who were making everyone freezing for their own personal comfort to just stop and behave like adult human beings instead of shrill demanding toddlers.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:23 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit jealous of having the hypothetical choice to make your office warmer or colder in a modern building though...

Building from 1936 here.

In the winter you have to submit a work request every day until they come fix your heat and they act like you're just "uncomfortable" instead of no, really, it's literally 40 degrees in here.
Then they "fix" your radiator except it perma-blasts heat now so you have to crack your window even in January and strategize a space heater for the arctic drafts because you're scared to ask them to "fix" it again.

Summer is not so bad except the hypothetical "AC" sort of works in my wing but not my actual room, so the overall temp is OK but on humid days , very sticky. So you open your window to get a breeze and then have to secure about 10 paperweights on your desk to keep everything from flying.

Also we literally have an "office crowbar" to crack your windows back open because every time you close them all the way they get stuck.

The building is pretty though!
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


A building in which I recently worked had this problem. Like almost all modern buildings, the women's restrooms were immediately adjacent to the men's restrooms. Shortly after construction was completed, the building's owners and management reported a problem: women were complaining about men "accidentally" walking into the women's restrooms.

The place I'm working at likewise has women's restrooms near the men's restrooms (because of how the support plumbing needs to be run); but the entrance to the men's room is off one corridor, and the entrance to the women's room is around the corner and down the other corridor a ways. A claim that you "accidentally" walked into one rather than the other would not be credible.

Re: AC, I'd always found it odd that some people would prefer 65 degrees during the summer, and 75 degrees during the winter.

Part of it is I imagine people think the room will cool down faster if they set a lower temperature.

I've read that most AC (this is probably describing home AC window units) can only manage about a 20 degree differential — if it is 95 outside, there is no point in setting your thermostat below 75.
posted by rochrobbb at 8:20 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Re: AC, I'd always found it odd that some people would prefer 65 degrees during the summer, and 75 degrees during the winter.

I don't do that, but I get it. In the winter I feel perpetually cold, so being somewhere actually hot seems like the height of decadence and luxury, and vice versa in the summer. (I like the spring and fall, when I almost never feel either too hot OR too cold.)

Something weird started happening where I live last winter, though, so sometimes when it is -30 out and I have turned the heat off I still have to sleep with the window open because some neighbour is living in a tropical wonderland and it all comes into my bedroom. No one will admit to this. It does keep my electricity bills low.
posted by jeather at 9:30 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It could be haints though.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:31 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It could be haints though.

Don't be silly, they would make rooms colder.
posted by jeather at 9:36 AM on August 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like the suggestions for solutions that have a whiff of the end of days: seagulls crashing through the ceiling, roaring flames, and, of course, malevolent spirits.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:52 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


modern liberated haints can do as they please, thank u very much
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 AM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the case of this particular building, that's how the situation unfolded, and that's why the restrooms are locked. Other than posting a guard outside the restrooms of each floor, I don't know what the solution to this problem would be.

Another branch of my library had a similar issue, where a guy was caught peeping in the women's toilet. We put up CCTV cameras facing the doors of the toilets. Now we also have large signs stating which areas are under CCTV surveillance. It's not a perfect solution, but as the toilets are for students, we can't lock them and hand out keys.
posted by Alnedra at 6:24 PM on August 4, 2015


can only manage about a 20 degree differential — if it is 95 outside, there is no point in setting your thermostat below 75.

It doesn't help to explain that to people, it only justifies them. See, so that's why you set the thermostat at 40. It'll be 75, and then when outside goes down to 90, the building will go down to 70 without having to adjust the thermostat again.
posted by ctmf at 7:20 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


this was the actual solution to the a/c issue, not to ask the people who were making everyone freezing for their own personal comfort to just stop and behave like adult human beings instead of shrill demanding toddlers.

Unlike this thread, where everyone who is complaining about being too cold is politely and quietly putting on a sweater instead of calling their overheated coworkers whiny brats.

There's a finite amount of clothing one can acceptably remove in most workplaces before getting into the realm of public indecency. Furthermore, being stinky and getting sweat on work surfaces and whatnot seems much worse to me than a case of goosebumps resulting from refusing to put another layer on.
posted by dazed_one at 3:24 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really wish I could solve my problem with sweaters but frankly I think when the number of sweaters you have on or draped about your person is higher than 3 there is a bigger issue. Until the slanket becomes professional officewear, anyway. It's not refusing to put another layer on so much as it is "running out of limbs" or "suffering professional consequences for looking like a mountain climber in LA in July." I don't think anyone's a whiny brat, but there are a lot of valid concerns that go beyond an imagined lack of sweaters. (Not that sweaters are even professional enough in some jobs or appropriate in others-- c'mon, tweed slanket! Save us!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:13 PM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


but there are a lot of valid concerns that go beyond an imagined lack of sweaters

Right, but if you're going to err towards one end of the thermostat rather than the other it seems better to err on the side of coolness rather than heat, as being too cold is a problem more easily and socially acceptably solved than being too hot is.
posted by dazed_one at 7:39 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, did anyone suggest to the people who are cold to just put a sweater on? Because I'll bet no one ever thought about putting a sweater on when they're cold. Good work, me!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


another point is that people who are too hot can only take off so many shirts until they get fired whereas people who are too cold can put on endlessly more sweaters and never get fired unless they reach a point where they are so layered they can't move their limbs enough to complete basic work tasks plus sweaty people stink whereas freezing people only shiver gently has anyone said that yet
posted by Don Pepino at 10:07 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older Haven't you heard? Flash is dying!   |   “What race is that?”: Whatever you want it to be. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments