Monday, June 30, 2008

When the Office Gives You Chills

Q and A for moderating that office thermostate ...

"Q. Now that the air-conditioning is running in your office, you and some co-workers think it’s too cold. But others say they feel just fine. What’s going on?

A. The problem is that the way people experience temperature depends on a range of factors, including body type, clothing, activity level and proximity to other people and to vents, computers and windows — as well as individual preferences and expectations.

At the same time, most modern office buildings have a one-size-fits-all design that can’t possibly accommodate all these variables. “You’re almost set up to fail when you put a lot of people in a building and give them one temperature,” said Gail S. Brager, a building science professor in the architecture department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Think of how much more control you have over your comfort at home, she said. You can open windows, turn on fans, heaters or air-conditioners, change clothes or move to a different room. At most offices, you lose that control. “Somebody else is pushing the button,” said Professor Brager, who is also associate director of the Center for the Built Environment at Berkeley.

Rather than creating optimal working conditions for everyone, she added, the goal in many offices “is to minimize the number of people who might complain.”

Q. It seems as if women complain about feeling cold more than men do. Is there a gender disparity when it comes to temperature’s effects?

A. Women do tend to feel colder in air-conditioned offices — for reasons of physiology and fashion, said Alan Hedge, an ergonomics professor at Cornell University.

The muscles of the body generate about a third of its heat, he explained, and women tend to have less muscle mass than men. In addition, women are often freer to wear clothing that leaves their arms, legs and the neck area exposed. (The ankles, he said, are particularly vulnerable to cold.)

Traditionally, women in offices have held more sedentary positions than men, he added, and the less you move around, the less heat you generate."    (Continued via NYTimes.com, Phyllis Korkki)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Cold Office - Ergonomics

Cold Office

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