Results from the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey reveal that, despite a global recession, investment levels in energy efficiency for buildings have remained strong. The survey also discovered there to be an increase in energy management among business leaders in China and India. Efficiency Indicator Survey results were released in June 2010.

The survey of more than 2,800 executives and managers responsible for making investments and managing energy in commercial buildings, found that 56% of respondents had invested the same or more in energy efficiency over the last 12 months. Globally, 63% of respondents plan to make capital investments in energy efficiency, and 70% plan operating budget expenditures in efficiency programs over the next 12 months. Eighty-five percent plan to make efficiency a priority in their new construction and retrofit projects. Across all regions surveyed, energy management is considered an important priority among 92% of commercial decision-makers.

In an exclusive interview with Contracting Business during the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C. in June, Clay Nesler, vice president, global energy and sustainability for Johnson Controls, discussed what the survey could mean for the growth of energy efficiency awareness in the U.S.

"Why are 71% of those surveyed paying more attention to energy efficiency than last year? You could view it as potential optimism in light of the economic situation. The interest and attention to energy efficiency didn't drop as much as one would have thought it would have, even throughout the recession," Nesler said.

"Investments in energy efficiency have reasonable returns, and many people made stable, low-risk investments. We also found that people invested in relatively low-cost improvements with short returns on investment."

The most popular energy conservation measure mentioned by survey respondents was to replace lighting technology and lighting fixtures. The next two most popular measures involved behavior, such as training and educating operations staff to better maintain and operate equipment, and encouraging wise energy use among occupants. The fourth most popular measure was adjusting HVAC controls, such as schedules or temperature set points. Adding occupancy or daylight sensors to control lighting was fifth.

"About one-third said they had replaced equipment prior to normal end-of-life," Nesler said. "Even in a time of recession and limited availability of capital, people made investments to replace equipment that was still working with much more efficient equipment."

Nesler said enterprising commercial HVAC contractors can use the survey results as a roadmap to approaching building retrofits.

"When approaching an energy efficiency retrofit, the first step that should be taken is to improve the building envelope for better insulation and daylighting, to reduce loads as much as possible. Next, apply energy efficient equipment and controls, effective maintenance and operations processes to maintain those controls, and high-efficiency equipment. When the project is complete, be sure to provide information to system operators and building owners that will enable them to take best advantage of the improvements," Nesler said. "Look for real opportunities; not opportunities to spend more, but to have a greater environmental impact. Then, educate building owners on the impact improvements could have on tenant occupancy, net operating income, branding, and all the benefits you’d get through green buildings. Timing is everything." — Terry McIver