Overcooling in Offices Reveals Gender Inequity in Thermal Comfort

Featured Faculty: Stefano Schiavon

According to a new study by Professor Stefano Schiavon, women are inequitably impacted by air temperature in office settings. Published in Scientific Reports, the report finds that women are more likely than men to experience discomfort from overcooling, in which air conditioning systems cool down rooms more than is necessary. It concludes that there is a need to rethink the approach to air-conditioning office buildings, to both address this inequity and the energy expense from wasteful cooling.

The report examined data from two sources, the CBE Occupant Survey, in which people were asked questions about the indoor environment of their workplace; and Twitter, from which 16,791 tweets between January 2010 and December 2019 were studied. Schiavon and his team found that women were more likely than men to say they were dissatisfied with office temperature, and feel too cold in both the summer and winter months.

According to these findings, not only is overcooling unnecessary but it is also "a wasteful and unsustainable energy expense" that "may adversely impact the ability of women to focus on their work." The researchers suggest that one reason for overcooling may be that the lower-than-necessary temperatures favor the thermal preference of men over women.

Published 01/04/2022