smart buildings

Francesco GenchiManaging Director of Johnson Controls Italia, examines the characteristics of smart buildings.

Building systems play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions. Cumulative spending on the transition to a green approach to heating and cooling will reach i 24 trillion dollars by 2050 and the use of energy-efficient devices, such as heat pumps, will need to nearly double by 2030 to align with global climate agreements. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: the need to improve the environmental factors of buildings, such as indoor air quality, has also become fundamental.

Johnson Controls commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate the state of smart billing. The online survey involved 3,445 responsible for smart building strategies of their organizations and the data reported here refers to a subset of 1,548 of them.

The results highlight a dual objective: optimize environments and improve the operational efficiency of critical building systems. However, many managers have to deal with the lack of integration of systems and equipment and with the limited ability to use the data collected to obtain useful information for building optimization. It is precisely in this area that partners come into play, capable of filling the gaps in integration and competence to increase the efficiency and sustainability of buildings and improve the health, productivity and well-being of the occupants.

Key findings

The first actions to take include improving energy efficiency and physical security, optimizing flexible operating models and indoor air quality (IAQ). To do this requires unified systems and insights. In fact, the lack of integration prevents cross-functional leaders from easily accessing the information needed to achieve their objectives: only 11% of respondents say that building systems and equipment are fully integrated and 67% struggle to use the insights generated to optimize them. This lack of integration costs time, people and money.

Technical and strategic partners therefore play a fundamental role in filling skills gaps and helping companies keep up with the evolution of air quality standards and certifications.

Smart billings provide managers with a clearer picture of what is happening within spaces, which can thus be more efficient, sustainable, healthy and productive. For the purposes of this study, we defined smart billings as the convergence of information from connected systems (e.g., HVAC, lighting, security, etc.) that provides measurable insights that can be shared across multiple systems operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). Smart buildings accelerate digital transformation initiatives and provide a vital foundation for room optimization, operational efficiency and sustainability.

Initiatives of this type allow companies to achieve environmental and operational efficiency objectives of buildings, as well as improve the safety and health of employees, reduce the carbon footprint, increase operational efficiency, optimize building spaces, the value proposition to attract talent, the well-being and productivity of occupants.

Ownership of various building environment systems is distributed across multiple departments, who must work together to optimize them. To do this, they need a single source of truth to obtain standardized reports on shared metrics and objectives. Respondents state the need to find partners that use the latest technologies, provide a single digital platform for all sites and use cases, offer integration of all building systems, an easy-to-use platform for stakeholders, demonstrate industry experience and have end-to-end expertise.

As the urgency to address the efficiency of building systems increases, the pressure on those responsible is ever greater. The survey revealed that:

  • Improve the health and well-being of occupants and at the same time improve operational efficiency are the main priorities

Many focus on improving energy efficiency and physical safety, optimizing or designing flexible operating models for buildings, and improving indoor air quality (IAQ).

Connected building systems reduce data silos and cross-departmental strategies they facilitate the ability to work collectively to improve results. However, managers engaged in implementing and optimizing the infrastructure and equipment necessary to achieve these results are often hindered by the inability to connect these systems and equipment together. We discovered that:

  • Only 11% of building managers say their organization’s systems and equipment are now fully integrated. Furthermore, managing the numerous partners involved is complicated. Around two-thirds of managers work with multiple partners, each specializing in different systems, and most face misalignment between partners (54%) and often struggle to get accurate and useful information from them ( 59%). Furthermore, 67% struggle to optimize systems and achieve their goals thanks to the insights generated
  • Collaboration with those responsible for sustainability and physical safety allows us to achieve common objectives. We found that many environmental, sustainability and building safety managers have overlapping goals. However, siled data and strategies hinder the collective progress of these teams. Breaking down silos will require better collaboration between teams and standardization of the systems they rely on

Lack of building data integration costs time, people and money. The inability to connect and integrate all systems and use the data collected to gain actionable insights impacts business operations, revenue and brand perception. For example, many say their companies are facing reductions in operational efficiency (66%), customer loyalty (60%), revenue (51%) and brand reputation (46%). Regulatory sanctions, however, are increasing (59%).

Many respondents report that their organizations are working to upgrade equipment and infrastructure to improve occupant well-being, health and productivity and increase the efficiency of operations. However, it emerged that:

  • Optimizing asset efficiency and monitoring air quality represent at the same time the main challenges and the greatest difficulties for 30% of those interviewed, while monitoring and improving IAQ is for 25%
  • Businesses need more assistance in integrating IAQ monitoring into their digital systems and to be updated on the evolution of the relevant regulations and certifications. Integration and interoperability of reporting and analytics between building environment systems and building management systems is also an area where support is needed
  • Ownership of building environment systems priorities is distributed across various departments. For example, IT is most often identified as owning initiatives to improve occupant productivity; Human Resources to improve the morale or well-being of occupants; and environmental health and safety departments are commonly identified as having ownership over improving occupant health and safety and reducing carbon footprints

To ensure that the information generated is relevant and useful, organizations should tailor analyzes and reports to the needs of specific departments, while standardizing those on shared metrics and objectives.

We compared building managers at organizations with comprehensive building environment optimization strategies (i.e., those pursuing seven or more initiatives) with more limited strategies (five or fewer initiatives).

Survey results show that priorities such as improving occupant health and well-being, enhancing operational performance, reducing occupant distractions, and enhancing the business value proposition to attract talent are factors driving strategies of optimization in organizations with comprehensive skills. These companies don’t address the priorities alone but they rely on external partners especially for the integration of the IAQ and analysis and reporting infrastructure; interoperability between building management systems and environmental ones; updating on indoor air quality standards and certifications.


Smart buildings are equipped with advanced technologies and interconnected systems that monitor and optimize critical building systems (lighting, power, HVAC, indoor air quality, occupancy, etc.) to improve the health, well-being and productivity of occupants, streamline operations, provide intelligent automation, and address efficiency and sustainability initiatives.

To fully exploit its potential, the following recommendations emerged from the Forrester analysis:

  • Evaluate the opportunities offered by smart billing to address a range of priorities in energy efficiency, health, well-being, productivity and sustainability
  • Facilitate collaboration among stakeholders to identify and exploit insights
  • Establish a roadmap of short- and long-term strategic initiatives
  • Identify experienced partners in acquiring relevant data and information about building systems