MONDAY, Aug. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Heating and cooling system settings in office buildings are based on men's needs and could result in excess energy use, a new study suggests.
Temperature standards in office buildings are based in part on the resting metabolic rate of a 154-pound, 40-year-old man, the researchers say. These standards may overestimate the amount of heating or cooling women require to be comfortable, they report in the Aug. 3 online issue of the journal Nature Climate Change.
"These findings could be significant for the next round of revisions of thermal comfort standards, [but] a large-scale re-evaluation in field studies may be needed in order to sufficiently convince real-estate developers, standard committees and building services engineers," Joost van Hoof, of Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, wrote in an accompanying commentary.
The Dutch researchers assessed 16 young women who did light office work and found their metabolic rate was significantly lower than current standard values. This suggests they may require lower levels of office cooling in the summer to be comfortable, they said.
Adjusting heating and cooling standards, established in the 1960s, to account for different metabolic rates in women and men could reduce energy consumption, the researchers noted.
Further energy-saving benefits might be gained by accounting for other factors such as age, body size and the specific types of work activity, said the researchers, Boris Kingma and Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, from Maastrict University in the Netherlands.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health explains metabolism and aging.