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Office AC Setpoints Ignite Controversy


cold woman in office

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon recently brought attention to an issue facility managers are well familiar with: the disagreement among men and women on a comfortable setpoint in air conditioned work spaces.

Before her debate with incumbent New York governor Andrew Cuomo, Nixon requested the venue’s temperature be set at 76 degrees. Cuomo notoriously likes ice-box-like temperature, according to this Washington Post column. This disagreement led to Nixon’s campaign manager calling work spaces “notoriously sexist when it comes to room temperatures.” The column cites a 2015 study by the Nature Climate Change showing that office setpoints usually are more ideal for men’s metabolic rates than for women’s.

Of course, most facility managers trying to wring out every kilowatt-hour would be thrilled with a 76-degree setpoint during summer cooling season. The key, of course, is to find the happy medium between occupant comfort for as many occupants as possible and efficiency — a challenge easier said than done and requiring more than a little bit of trial and error.

Nixon bringing up setpoint highlights one of several issues of women in the workplace Previously, we wrote about a study showing how women don’t feel safe in open offices because they feel more scrutinized.

This Quick Read was submitted by Greg Zimmerman, executive editor, Building Operating Management. Read his recent story about the new LEED v4.1 rating system.

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