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Smart building budget shortfalls can cause risks

by Geny Caloisi

According to a new research report from Johnson Controls, manufacturer of fire, HVAC, and security equipment for buildings, two of the most significant barriers to adopting smart technologies in buildings are budget constraints and buy-in from senior leadership.

The report, ‘Thinking Smart: How the foundations of the UK will be defined by smart buildings’, found that 99% of decision-makers see the value of smart tech – yet just 34% of buildings are currently fitted with smart solutions. 

In the short term, this could be putting occupant health and safety at greater risk, while long-term sustainability targets will be impacted. 

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

Commercial office space organisations have to make their money stretch furthest when it comes to the budget abyss, 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. At the same time, government and healthcare organisations feel they have sufficient budgets to see value from their smart technology investments. 

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

But it’s not only a problem in the present. Occupant health and safety take top priority now, but decision-makers say that energy efficiency will be top of their priority list in five years. In ten years, 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. 

 Andy Ellis, VP and General Manager, Johnson Controls UK&I, concludes, “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 use 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.”