Sustainability commitments and smart buildings set to drive future investment

Cork, Ireland — According to the findings of new survey, health and safety concerns are driving building improvements during COVID-19.
Johnson Controls’ annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey found that more than half of organizations plan to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart building technology next year, comparable with investment trends after the 2010 recession.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to improve the health and safety of buildings, particularly by increasing their ability to operate under different conditions, both planned and unforeseen,” said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls. “Though the pandemic has altered how people are investing in their buildings, occupant health and energy efficiency continue to be top of mind and we anticipate these investments will be a priority in 2021 as more people return to shared spaces.”
Of the factors determining investment, the majority (85 per cent) said that reducing energy costs was a very or extremely important driver of investment and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) believe that protecting the health and safety of occupants during emergencies was a very or an extremely important driver of investment.
Despite reduced occupancy, the study found that facility energy use dropped surprisingly little during the pandemic, with less than 10 per cent of facilities reducing energy use more than 20 per cent.
Investments in Air Quality and Flexibility
As the world learns more about the spread of COVID-19 through aerosol transmission, indoor air quality has become one of the most pressing issues for facility managers to address. The survey found that 79 per cent have already or are planning to increase air filtration, three-quarters have already or are planning to install an air treatment system and 72 per cent have already or are planning to increase outdoor air ventilation rates.
The majority of respondents, 81 per cent, said that increasing the flexibility of facilities to quickly respond to a variety of emergency conditions was very or extremely important driver of investment.
Further, in an increasingly digital world, the integration of systems has become more important than ever. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of respondents’ organizations have invested in the integration of security systems with other building technology systems, a 36 per cent increase from the 2019 study. And one-third of respondents (33 per cent) plan to invest in the integration of building technology systems with distributed energy resources in the next year, a 15 per cent increase over 2020.
“Digital offerings that integrate a number of systems are more of a priority than ever for organizations evaluating their investment plans for 2021,” said Michael Ellis, executive vice president and chief customer and chief digital officer at Johnson Controls. “We took note of this trend, which is why we invested in our comprehensive OpenBlue offerings and continue to expand those with partners to meet their increasingly interconnected needs around energy efficiency, sustainability, digitization and occupant health.”
The integration of new technology continues to be a theme, with 79 per cent of respondents noting that data analytics and machine learning will have an extremely or very significant impact on buildings, up five per cent from last year’s study.