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He was probably about 40 years old, 155 pounds, white and wearing a suit. And he’s the reason why women are shivering at their desks in air-conditioned buildings.
At some point in the 1930s, someone defined “metabolic equivalents” — how much energy a body requires while sitting, walking and running. Almost a century later, the back-of-the-envelope calculations are considered a standard for many things, including air conditioning.
But using that metabolic equivalent could be unnecessarily ramping up energy bills during summertime, researchers say, and it’s time to plug in the right numbers so that air conditioning settings aren’t biased toward men, and fewer women are reaching for the sweater.
“Garbage in, garbage out,” says Boris Kingma, a biophysicist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. “So, if you put in the wrong metabolic rate, you get an answer which is of course not valid.”