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19 October 2018
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IFMA World Workplace: Day one

 27 October 2011

World Workplace opened in Phoenix yesterday with a controversial keynote, a book launch and a party in a baseball stadium. Richard Byatt reports on the first day.

IFMA chair Kathy Roper welcomed delegates with a speech to inspire them to new heights. As IFMA passes 20,000 members she spoke about “smarter facilities and smarter FM.”

Roper talked about IFMA’s new Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP) accreditation which “recognises the importance of the human factor, not just the building.”

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said the city now uses less water per head than 20 years ago. Delegates who have remarked on how quiet downtown Phoenix is, heard Mayor Gordon argue that revitalising the city centre would be a major contribution to sustainability – reducing travel.

In 2009 the city adopted an ambitious 17-point plan to transform Phoenix into the most sustainable city in America. The focus is on six areas: Greener Neighborhoods; Solar City; Greening Homes and Businesses; Public Buildings LEED Retrofit; Renewable Energy; and Efficient City Lights.

Bjorn Lomborg, the self-styled “sceptical environmentalist”, would probably describe many of these initiatives as all about “feeling good”, “rather than doing good”. He was a rather odd choice of keynote speaker for an organisation that is doing so much to promote sustainability and in particular carbon reduction.

In a slick and plausible presentation with plenty of statistics (some referenced, some not) he set out his basic argument that we should focus on mitigating the worst effects of global warming (which he accepts is real and man-made) rather than attempting to slow it. Lomborg believes the consequences of climate change are vastly exaggerated and that there are more urgent and tractable problems facing mankind.

This approach leads to some interesting recommendations, including the suggestion that FMs should focus not on ensuring buildings use less energy but on making them cooler. 

However he probably wouldn’t hear too many arguments against one of his final points – invest heavily in innovation, drive down the cost of technologies such as solar PV so that the right choice for the environment is also the rational economic decision.

Work on the move – driving strategy and change in workplaces is a new book, published by the IFMA Foundation and launched at World Workplace by four of the 22 authors: Laurie Aznavoorian, Diane Coles, Ellen Keable and Alexi Marmot.

The book examines the forces driving workplace change and its effects on facilities professionals. Aznavoorian said the physical environment could impact business, express a brand and change behaviours. According to Marmot, “this book will make a difference to FM. There are plenty of books about the workplace but few from an FM perspective,” she said.

IFMA Foundation

Cooling a stadium

Talking of keeping buildings cool, how about an entire sports stadium? Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, was the venue for the World Workplace Welcome reception. The stadium is a spectacular arena with a retractable roof, a swimming pool for fans with deep pockets, an old warehouse built into its facade and … air conditioning.


On game days, the roof is left open to help grow the natural grass that is used on the playing field. Should sunlight prove to be insufficient, requiring more light on some days, large incandescent lights provide a substitute. It may not be green but it’s certainly impressive.