In March and April of 2010, the Institute for Building Efficiency, an initiative of Johnson Controls, conducted a survey of more than 2,800 executives and managers to determine the status of energy efficiency investments in commercial buildings across the globe.
Working alongside the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), the Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) study team tracked various aspects of energy management in commercial buildings, including priorities, practices, and return on investment criteria.
In the past, the EEI study was conducted only in North America, but this year it was deployed across Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The survey’s results showed that the importance of energy efficiency for decision makers is on the rise, with 71 percent of respondents admitting that they are now paying more attention to energy efficiency than they did a year ago. Although motivations are different from region to region, the common denominator influencing change is cost savings. The second most important factor for energy efficiency was lowering greenhouse gas emissions, except for in North America, where boosting public image and taking advantage of government incentives ranked higher in importance.
Once again, though, there is a noticeable gap between beliefs and actions, with 28 percent of those surveyed having yet to effectively identify their top carbon strategy. Among those who have, a large portion (34%) point directly to improving energy efficiency in their buildings as their top climate solution. Many organizations identified and completed measures considered to be “low hanging fruit,” but a surprisingly high number of respondents engaged in significant energy improvements last year, including:
- Replacing inefficient equipment before the end of its useful life (37%)
- Upgrading building controls (37%)
- Installing energy saving glass in windows (32%)
- Participating in demand response programs (22%)
- Installing renewable energy technology (21%)
In most industries the economic recession has had a noticeable impact on growth, but according to individuals surveyed in this study, there were mixed reactions. 56 percent of respondents say they have invested the same or more money in energy efficiency over the last 12 months compared to historic levels. This supports the fact that efficiency investments can be a fast and low risk way to reduce operating costs over the long term.
One challenge that remains is access to financing. Building executives report that limited capital availability (29%) is the greatest barrier to implementing energy saving strategies. Insufficient payback (18%) and savings uncertainty (18%) followed. The lack of available capital indicated in this survey may prompt companies, like lighting control manufacturers for example, to engage their customers in an arrangement of payment through cost savings as an alternate financing mechanism.
Global business leaders who responded in the survey expressed their expectations that solar, lighting, and smart building technologies will provide the greatest price-to-performance ratio over the next 10 years. Solar photovoltaic and lighting technologies led the expectations with 46 percent respectively, followed by smart building technologies (33%), electric and plug-in hybrid cars (28%), nuclear power (19%), carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants (8%), and stationary energy storage (7%).
The results of this survey provide a comprehensive picture of what is happening around the world, from the perspective of C-level executives (30%), vice presidents and general managers (36%), and facility managers (22%) from within the manufacturing, healthcare, information and communication technology, construction, consulting, as well as retail and government sectors.