On day one of COP28, study shows the key role of smarter buildings

Posted on 30 Nov 2023 by The Manufacturer

As the world races to meet critical climate targets, new research from Johnson Controls and Forrester Consulting reveals some of the biggest opportunities and immediate needs for business leaders looking to advance sustainability commitments.

With buildings representing some 40% of global emissions decarbonising the built environment is one of the fastest paths to meeting net zero targets globally (being discussed at length at the COP28 Conference starting today) and essential for many businesses with 2030 carbon reduction goals. The survey shows widespread acceptance that sustainability is a business priority and a firm recognition that partners are essential to realising 2030 sustainability commitments.

“For leaders looking to quickly advance their net zero journey and make a real impact on global carbon reduction, buildings are the key enabler,” said Johnson Controls Chairman and CEO George Oliver.

“This new research shows decision makers around the world understand sustainable buildings are better for the balance sheet and external partners are invaluable in optimising buildings and measuring environmental impact. Solutions exist today that can remove the need for upfront capital, digitalise a building’s systems to provide actionable data, electrify systems to accelerate the energy transition and create positive cash flow. These are immediate solutions we can all adopt now as we respond to a changing climate and work to reduce carbon emissions.”

  • One third of decision-makers realise they need to accelerate their efforts to meet 2030 net zero goals.
  • 42% agree that optimising energy use is one of the most impactful sustainability investment areas.
  • 69% of respondents report that smart buildings are important in helping their organisations accelerate sustainability initiatives.

The survey of nearly 3,500 respondents representing 25 countries and 18 industries shows that sustainability is one of their three top business priorities. Among decision makers on sustainability initiatives specifically – a subset of 1,500 respondents – two-thirds report they are fully on track to meet their carbon reduction goals while one-third realise they need to accelerate their efforts to meet 2030 net zero goals.

Respondents report that smart buildings are important in helping their organisations accelerate sustainability initiatives (69%) and that adding or upgrading building automation (56%) and digital technologies to optimise energy use (42%) are among the most impactful sustainability investment areas.

Technologies exist that can digitalise a building’s systems, multiply energy, emissions and cost savings, and can even create net energy positive solutions. Some ten percent of respondents have already fully integrated their buildings systems and equipment to realise these benefits.

Vast majorities of leaders seek partners who can provide a digital platform across sites and use cases (74%) that is easy to use for cross-departmental teams (67%) and is integrated into all building systems (70%). These partnerships solve two key problems for these leaders – 73%  of sustainability leaders say their organisations lack the technical expertise to optimise building systems from insights collected while 40% lack the internal skills to measure their environmental impact.

“We cannot decarbonise the planet without decarbonising buildings. This research shows that we’re at a tipping point where sustainability is a top business priority and companies are aggressively pursuing their net zero targets but are also actively seeking partners to help accelerate those efforts,” said Katie McGinty, Vice President and Chief Sustainability and External Relations Officer at Johnson Controls.

“Working with partners to rapidly deploy smart building technology not only cuts waste but strengthens the bottom line. It’s also increasingly becoming a regulatory imperative, an expectation of stakeholders, and a differentiator for attracting talent. Smarter, more sustainable building solutions are immediate steps leaders can implement to make a difference on climate change.”

Other key findings include:

  • Sustainability is increasingly a core consideration across business functions. When comparing findings from security, sustainability and building environment systems decision makers, all were focused on improving efficiency in operations and doing so sustainably.
  • Customer required reporting, public reporting and supply chain compliance reporting have significantly increased over the past two years since Forrester first conducted this study in 2021. Reporting is among respondents’ top challenges. Among 53%, say the ability to only measure and report on carbon emissions once a year or quarter is limiting incremental progress.
  • Roughly a third of respondents say they expect AI will have a significant impact on improving sustainability in company-owned spaces by providing them actionable recommendations to prevent downtime and optimise efficiencies before losses occur.
  • A third of leaders note their organisation would be able to keep their sustainability goals on track if faced with a minor budget cut, while another two-thirds would need help maintaining resiliency of their sustainability strategies. To account for factors outside their control, organisations need strategic partners and technology solution providers to identify opportunities for short and mid-term savings like energy efficiency solutions and water and waste reduction.

Additional insights are available in a new thought leadership paper, The Race to Zero Carbon Requires Smart Buildings. The study is the first in a new series of studies capturing key findings from the survey, planned for release in the coming months at www.johnsoncontrols.com/smart-buildings/forrester-2023.

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