Home run?

Attending World Workplace is guaranteed to give you a different perspective on facilities management.

But I hadn’t expected to get it whilst standing on the field of a sports stadium in Phoenix. IFMA held the welcome reception at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. Temperatures were in the 80s for the week of the conference and the stadium has a retractable roof – the first in the US –  not so much to protect the crowd from rain but to shield them and the grass from the sun.

Of course, if you close the roof it‘s going to get hot. The answer? Air condition the entire 48,000 seat stadium!

Cooling a complete stadium is probably logical from the perspective of a major league baseball team if not from a sustainability viewpoint. But if technology can solve the problem of an overheating baseball ground, how about a warming planet?

A newspaper item caught my eye whilst in Phoenix. It was a review of a thermostat, in the personal technology section – a column normally given over to the latest in tablet computers or smartphones.

However, this is no ordinary thermostat, this is the iPod of thermostats. A cool bit of kit that is intuitive to use. Anyone who has ever listened to Bill Bordass knows that complexity is the enemy and too many building controls are used incorrectly or not at all.

According to the USA Today reviewer, the new digital Nest Learning Thermostat smashes any preconceived notions of what a thermostat ought to look like and how it should operate. It can be accessed remotely and learns from your behaviour.

A proximity sensor wakes up the device when you come near; it also has sensors for temperature, humidity and ambient light. The display turns orange when the heat is on and blue during cooling. The target temperature is shown in the middle of the screen, together with the time it will take to reach that temperature. If it is operating at what Nest considers to be an ideal energy-saving temperature, a green leaf appears on the screen.

Could the humble thermostat really save the world?