Old formula, efficient air conditioners to blame for office conflicts: BC Hydro

VANCOUVER — The latest study from British Columbia's Crown-owned power utility finds office air conditioners cool the workplace in summer but can also lead to heated arguments between colleagues.

A report from BC Hydro says an increased use of air conditioning in the office leads to worker discomfort, with 25 per cent of those asked saying office temperature has prompted disagreements between co-workers.

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Hydro says the use of air conditioning in commercial buildings has increased by almost one-third since 2006, while its study says as many as two-thirds of the 500 people questioned report they can't access the thermostat or lack permission to change the settings.

Of those, Hydro says 60 per cent — most of them women — find office temperatures are so low that they have trouble working, requiring them to regularly use a blanket or other layers to fend off the chill.

A BC Hydro spokeswoman says its data supports other studies showing many office climate-control systems are based on an outdated thermal comfort formula designed to suit the metabolic rate of men.

The utility recommends offices be cooled to between 23 C and 26 C, that air conditioning should be turned off when the office is unoccupied and that a heating and air conditioning professional be hired to identify energy efficient solutions.

Spokeswoman Susie Rieder says part of the problem is that many office ventilation and heating systems continue to use settings that were often designed for men in the 1960s, and research shows men have a higher metabolic rate than women.

"That could be contributing to women feeling colder in the office," says Rieder.

"Another (study) that recently came out in the online research journal Plos One said women actually work better in warmer temperatures and men work better in colder temperatures," she says.

The online survey of 500 British Columbians was commissioned by BC Hydro and conducted between June 20 and 25, 2019. (The Canadian Press, CHNL)

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