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Working closely together with various building stakeholders is key to see how your progress toward sustainability goals is playing out across your portfolio.

The Future is Now: 2024’s Smart Building Roadmap

March 20, 2024
The first few months of the year present an opportunity for building owners and managers to make realistic resolutions around facility performance. Here’s how you can develop a roadmap to meet your building goals.

A new year is considered a fresh start for many aspects of life—including the life of living, breathing smart buildings. The first few months of the year present an opportunity for building owners and facility managers to make realistic resolutions around increasing their facilities’ performance in 2024 and beyond and develop a roadmap to meet these goals.

During this transformative period, consider the following steps to take a proactive approach towards smart building management and development.   

Revisit and Realign Priorities 

Before facility and building managers can establish priorities for the year, they first need to understand their baselines so they know where they’re starting from. It’s also wise to check in with other building stakeholders to see what goals or priorities they have, so you can set resolutions that are aligned. Find time to meet with the appropriate parties to establish what’s currently working well and what could be improved. For example, a facility manager may dedicate some time to meet with other members of the building/business team to discuss how they can increase energy and water efficiency to help reduce operating costs. Other building priorities may include: 

  • Automate manual tasks to help address labor shortages and boost productivity 
  • Tackle deferred maintenance to maximize uptime and equipment lifetimes 
  • Improve building performance to meet or get ahead of sustainability mandates 

Once specific goals have been established, building managers must plan how these changes will come to life. What steps have already been taken towards achieving these goals, and what’s needed next? How is performance being tracked? Seamlessly integrating goal setting with data collection and analysis is vital to fully leverage the benefits of any smart building solutions. 

Find a Trusted Advisor 

When it can’t be done alone, working with a trusted partner can help make decision-making easier. Enlisting the help of a professional team with deep knowledge of the technology and infrastructure options available to owners or facility managers today can make it easier and less overwhelming to reach target outcomes.  

This can look like: 

  • Teaming up with a provider who understands commercial and industrial operations and demonstrates success with similar facilities 
  • Working with a finance team that provides in-depth expertise in innovative funding options 
  • Identifying a partner who can address every phase of an infrastructure project, including planning and design, building and operating, and finally, maintaining upgrades 

When working with a qualified advisor, building managers have access to an unbiased, third-party perspective on in-progress systems or current workflows to identify opportunities for streamlining and improvement. Conducting comprehensive, building-wide assessments for indoor air quality, energy efficiency, security and fire alarms and other priorities is also instrumental in the process.  

Maximize Funding 

Although many industries from healthcare to education face financial constraints, this doesn’t mean building or technology projects must go on the backburner. There are a multitude of unique funding solutions that can help bring a building manager’s smart building goals to life. Whether the priority is spreading out costs of upgrades and retrofits, implementing innovative funding approaches or taking advantage of government initiatives—the options are there, it’s just a matter of identifying the best fit for their building and budget.  

Here’s a sampling of mechanisms available to fund building projects: 

  • Federal funding: Numerous grants are available for building projects that focus on energy efficiency, retrofitting and/or infrastructure projects. Utilizing grants.gov to find grants for a specific project can help make the financing aspect of building upgrades smoother. 
  • Energy Savings Performance Contracts: Performance contractors will identify, design and implement energy conservation measures while guaranteeing performance. This helps take the weight off the building owner as funds can come from the contractor, the building owner or a third party, and can also incorporate utility incentives or government subsidies to help reduce the total cost of the project.  
  • Efficiency-as-a-Service: A pay-for-performance, off-balance sheet financing solution that allows participants to implement energy and water projects without an upfront cost. Once a project is in motion, the customer then makes payments based on energy savings or other equipment performance metrics. 

A trusted advisor can help building managers better understand what’s available to them based on the scope of individual projects. This way, both upgrades and savings can be maximized for the betterment of the building.  

Walking the Terrain 

Once the roadmap is in motion, it’s time to assess how these priorities are playing out across facilities. Monitoring workflows, having regular conversations with various building stakeholders and, above all, leaning into data for actionable insights are key steps to ensuring energy, sustainability and efficiency goals stay on track—or knowing when they may need to be adjusted as the journey evolves.  

After taking the time to organize, plan and kick projects off, any upgrades made must continuously be nurtured. Simply put, maintaining a healthy building is a daily journey and much more of a marathon than a sprint. When building and facility managers work together to aggregate, review and analyze the data that new building systems may produce, they’re more likely to identify and address issues before setbacks occur. This cycle ensures building systems are regularly up to date.  

In 2024 and beyond, implementing smart building technology will help advance facilities to new levels. Whether the specific goal is to monitor energy efficiency, improve indoor air quality or protect occupants with integrated security systems (or a combination of all), enhancing buildings with smart technology can ensure a building’s resilience for many years to come.

About the Author

John Fleming

John Fleming is the Vice President of Global Commercial Innovation for Sustainable Infrastructure at Johnson Controls, where he’s worked for the past 30-plus years. Johnson Controls is the global leader in smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, with a mission to reimagine the performance of buildings to serve people, places, and the planet. 

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