Facility Managers Climb Up To The Mile High City: High Notes From IFMA’s World Workplace 2023 In Denver

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Facility Managers Climb Up To The Mile High City: High Notes From IFMA’s World Workplace 2023 In Denver

Denver: the hometown of sunny days, NHL and NFL teams (go Avalanche and Broncos!), first-rate breweries, and lots and lots and lots of dispensaries. This year, it also hosted a wild bunch of building managers coming to the International Facility Management Association’s (IFMA) annual World Workplace conference. During the week of September 25th, over 3,500 engineers and managers hiked into Denver to learn about new strategies and technologies, meet up with friends, have a chance to see Erin Brockovich (not Julia Roberts) speak and show off their drinking skills (as well as partake in some other recreational activities)! Similar to 2022, this year’s focus was on decarbonization and sustainability, the workplace experience, and new technologies – such as AI. However, the conversations had changed from ‘why these topics are important’ to ‘how to implement them and accomplish goals’.

FMs move from passive to active
The summit for facilities managers (FMs) continues to rise as their roles somehow continue to expand. FMs today not only need to operate buildings efficiently, but must also find ways to entice workers back into facilities, cut costs, decarbonize operations and stay up-to-date on new regulations.

Many firms today continue to struggle with getting employees back to the office. Managers have been able to lure some workers back by offering free lunches, activities or other ‘goodies’, such as massages. However, they have yet to find a way to consistently get employees to make the trek to the office. Thus, firms are also turning to AV and collaboration solutions that help maximize productivity in the office as well as in hybrid working environments.

Avoiding jail time
Sustainability and building performance standards were also, unsurprisingly, big topics this year. Firms, and specifically FMs, are facing a real need to decarbonize their portfolios if they want to avoid fines – or potentially even jail time. A lot of the conversations centred on leveraging both technological and non-technological innovations (such as HVAC refrigerant lubricant supplements) to accomplish such goals. How to prove the ROI of sustainability and retrofitting projects was also a key theme: around 52% of today’s commercial building stock will still exist in 2050, making it critical to address the energy and emissions of existing buildings. FMs need to address the fear of subjective and unknown ROI of improvement projects.

Smarter buildings reduce landfill
Tied to retrofitting activities was the need for smarter design and construction, as the construction and demolition industry contributes 90% of landfill waste. This is because firms today still manage buildings linearly rather than thinking about the whole life cycle of a building from day one. Other hot topics included cyber security and digital twins, especially as IT and OT (operational technology) systems continue to converge.

From ‘who cares’ to ‘how do we accomplish it?’
It's a lot to tackle, and the conference provided the chance to discuss and debate – as well as share war stories. Besides sore feet and some headaches, attendees came out of the conference with new solutions and ideas that could add value to their portfolios and help ease other types of headaches. There was a notable shift in the attitudes of attendees from why we should do things to how can we do them. This theme was also featured in Erin Brockovich’s ending keynote speech, which centred on ‘stick-to-itiveness’ and believing that you can be the change that you want to see in the world.

Denver has a lot to offer for every type of person, from history buffs and outdoor activity addicts to extreme enthusiast of other types of recreational activities. During the week of September 25th, it catered to those and more; the streets and bars were buzzing with facilities engineer types and software vendors. One couldn’t throw a rock in a downtown Denver bar or hotel without hitting at least one IFMA attendee, signifying the growing interest in and importance of facilities management best practices.

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Joy Trinquet

Senior Analyst

Joy is a Senior Analyst in the Verdantix Smart Buildings practice. Her current research agenda focuses on building digital twins, BIM for operations, smart building systems integration as well as architecture, engineering and construction software. Joy joined Verdantix in 2019, and previously worked at BNP Paribas Asset Management. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with a concentration in policy as well as dual minors in computer science and business studies from New York University.