Johnson Controls released the findings of its annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, which 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.

Of the factors determining investment, the majority (85%) said that reducing energy costs was a very or extremely important driver of investment and more than three-quarters (76%) 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% of facilities reducing energy use more than 20%.

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% have already or are planning to increase air filtration, three-quarters have already or are planning to install an air treatment system and 72% have already or are planning to increase outdoor air ventilation rates.

The majority of respondents, 81% 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%) of respondents' organizations have invested in the integration of security systems with other building technology systems, a 36% increase from the 2019 study. And one-third of respondents (33%) plan to invest in the integration of building technology systems with distributed energy resources in the next year, a 15% 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% 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% 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 ten years – an increase of 7% 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 ten years – an increase of three percent from 2019. Additionally, 63% of organizations invested in onsite renewable energy in 2020, a 22% increase from the organizations that said they were planning to in the 2019 study.

Funding Facility Improvements

The 2020 survey found that funding for facility improvements increasingly came from internal capital budgets (71%), energy services agreements (24%) and economic stimulus and recovery funds (20%).

Survey methodology: This independent survey was fielded online to 150 energy and facility management executives across the U.S. between September 11, 2020 through October 5, 2020. Of respondents, 27% held roles in commercial organizations, 37% in institutions, 23% in industry and 13% in other organizations.

About Johnson Controls
At Johnson Controls, we transform the environments where people live, work, learn and play. From optimizing building performance to improving safety and enhancing comfort, we drive the outcomes that matter most. We deliver our promise in industries such as healthcare, education, data centers and manufacturing. With a global team of 100,000 experts in more than 150 countries and over 130 years of innovation, we are the power behind our customers' mission. Our leading portfolio of building technology and solutions includes some of the most trusted names in the industry, such as Tyco, YORK, Metasys, Ruskin, Titus, Frick, Penn, Sabroe, Simplex, Ansul and Grinnell.