More than half of organizations plan to increase their investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and smart building technology next year, according to Johnson Controls’ annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey. These plans are comparable with investment trends after the 2010 recession.
Of the factors determining investment, the majority (85 percent) said that reducing energy costs was a very or extremely important driver of investment, and more than three-quarters (76 percent) believe that protecting the health and safety of occupants during emergencies was a very or an extremely important driver of investment.
“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.”
Despite reduced occupancy, the study found that facility energy use dropped surprisingly little during the pandemic, with less than 10 percent of facilities reducing energy use more than 20 percent.
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 percent have already or are planning to increase air filtration, three-quarters have already or are planning to install an air treatment system, and 72 percent have already or are planning to increase outdoor air ventilation rates.
The majority of respondents, 81 percent, 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 percent) of respondents’ organizations have invested in the integration of security systems with other building technology systems, a 36 percent increase from the 2019 study. And one-third of respondents (33 percent) plan to invest in the integration of building technology systems with distributed energy resources in the next year, a 15 percent 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 percent of respondents noting that data analytics and machine learning will have an extremely or very significant impact on buildings, up five percent from last year’s study.
Increased Interest In Net Zero Energy Buildings
The study found growing interest in net zero energy buildings and resiliency, with 70 percent of organizations very or extremely likely to have one or more facilities that are nearly zero, net zero or positive energy or carbon status in the next 10 years – an increase of seven percent from 2019.
Further, two-thirds of organizations are very or extremely likely to have one or more facilities able to operate off the grid in the next 10 years – an increase of three percent from 2019. Additionally, 63 percent of organizations invested in onsite renewable energy in 2020, a 22 percent increase from the organizations that said they were planning to in the 2019 study.
The 2020 survey also found that funding for facility improvements increasingly came from internal capital budgets (71 percent), energy services agreements (24 percent), and economic stimulus and recovery funds (20 percent).
The survey was fielded online to 150 energy and facility management executives across the U.S. between September 11 and October 5, 2020. Of respondents, 27 percent held roles in commercial organizations, 37 percent in institutions, 23 percent in industry, and 13 percent in other organizations.
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