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Report Casts Doubt on UK Net Zero Ambitions

06.07.2021, 11:17

Report Casts Doubt on UK Net Zero Ambitions

Budget constraints and poor buy-in from senior leadership are listed as the two biggest barriers to the adoption of smart building technologies according to a survey commissioned by Johnson Controls.

Findings from the survey are presented in a document, “Thinking Smart: How the foundations of the UK will be defined by smart buildings” which reports that 99 per cent of decision-makers see the value of smart tech at a time when only 34 per cent of buildings are currently fitted with smart solutions. Johnson Controls argues resistance to new technologies may be be putting occupant health and safety at greater risk – as well as impacting longer-term sustainability targets.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, smart technologies helped 87 per cent of respondents keep their buildings safe – and over a third (37 per cent) indicated it was critical or essential to doing so. Despite these evident benefits, budget constraints caused issues for two-thirds (64 per cent) of decision-makers, with 42 per cent reportedly struggling to get senior buy-in.  

When it comes to the budget abyss, commercial office space organisations have to make their money stretch furthest, with required budgets as high as £2.7 million per building, and real budgets coming in as low as £1.3 million. Higher education is also struggling, with a £300,000 deficit from the £1.8 million they need, while government and healthcare organisations feel they have sufficient budgets to see value from their smart technology investments. 

For senior leaders, this exposes a difficult question: whether to address the problem head-on and make major investments now, or be forced to make urgent improvements down the line – both to reduce ever-mounting costs and meet increasingly tough sustainability targets. 

But it’s not only a problem in the present. Occupant health and safety takes top priority now, but decision-makers say that in five years’ time, energy efficiency will be top of their priority list. In ten years’ time, sustainability and net zero will take the top spot, signalling a growing focus on climate change. Worryingly, without the right smart technologies in place soon, businesses will struggle to achieve these goals. 

Priority in the next year 

Priority in the next 5 years 

Priority in the next 10 years 

Occupant health & safety 

59% 

32% 

32% 

Regulatory compliance  

42% 

28% 

26% 

Employee experience 

40% 

34% 

37% 

Operational efficiency  

39% 

42% 

36% 

Energy efficiency  

38% 

58% 

37% 

Cost efficiency  

37% 

44% 

31% 

Security  

34% 

32% 

29% 

Sustainability & net-zero targets  

17% 

37% 

49% 

Profits 

16% 

21% 

22% 

Figure 1: The short, medium and long-term goals of building decision-makers 

“Smart buildings haven’t only helped businesses get through the pandemic – they’re also essential to achieving ambitious sustainability targets like Carbon Net Zero,” says Andy Ellis, VP and General Manager, Johnson Controls UK&I. “Smart solutions that integrate with your fire, security, controls, HVAC, and occupancy systems can look across a whole building to see in real-time where efficiencies can be made.

“Without technologies like these to do the hard work for building staff, achieving new levels of sustainability targets and creating healthy workspaces that support both the environment and employees will be hard.

“It appears that building decision-makers understand the challenge, so now it’s on organisations like ours to speak out, educate the market and embrace the challenges we face around sustainability. We can do this by using smart technologies, so taking this message to the C-Suite and senior leaders – with tangible evidence on the benefits they will bring – will be critical. Then, we can gain their buy-in to ensure our buildings and businesses can be future-ready.”

Survey Methodology 

The report was commissioned by Johnson Controls in April 2021 to uncover how smart buildings helped the UK & Ireland through the COVID-19 pandemic and how smart technology would be used to help organisations and the country reach its goals in the future.

The survey was conducted among 100 building decision-makers across the UK & Ireland. Industries covered include central government, large scale healthcare, pharmaceutical, higher education and wider commercial real estate, such as retail and banking.

All respondents represented organisations with 500+ employees. The interviews were conducted by Sapio Research via an online survey. 

CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Staff Reporter

FMIndustry.com covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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