Sustainability Remained a Top Priority in 2020 Despite Historic Challenges and Evidence Shows it is Gaining Importance

March 29, 2021

Sustainability Remained a Top Priority in 2020 Despite Historic Challenges and Evidence Shows it is Gaining Importance

Let’s call 2021 the Year of Resiliency for energy management and sustainability goals. The pandemic changed how industry leaders approach occupancy health and building performance. Historically consistent occupancy rates are now fluctuating regularly, and as a result, energy consumption and system performance are largely unpredictable. And yet, corporate sustainability remained a top priority in 2020. So, how are energy and facility managers approaching 2021? They’re pursuing their energy goals with data from last year’s lessons and a wish list of tools to optimize resource reduction and building health.

With the release of the second annual State of Energy Management report, Sustainable Brands reached out to Sarah Diegnan, VP of Customer Success and Operations for BuildingOS® at Acuity Brands, for her perspective on how industry leaders’ thoughts and behaviors from 2020 will shape this year’s decisions and purchases.

In the article, How the Pandemic Shaped Sustainability Goals for Commercial Buildings, Sarah discusses how the State of Energy Management survey revealed an opportunity to shift the energy industry narrative away from efficiency and towards continuous optimization and the underlying results driving this opportunity.

For example, meeting stricter ASHRAE guidelines is driving equipment upgrades while facility teams still working off-site need remote monitoring capabilities. Fluctuating occupancy rates require smarter building management and greater system efficiency to optimize resources.  All of which aligns with survey respondents’ top three requirements for managing building performance and protecting occupant health:

  • Higher efficiency HVAC (87%)
  • Better lighting (79%)
  • Improved access to analytics derived from actionable data (77%)

A notable percentage of industry leaders said they need better controls to manage unpredictable and fluid occupancy levels, including:

  • Ability to monitor energy remotely (40%)
  • Building controls (36%)
  • Lighting controls (21%)

Notice the common elements in each of the above responses? It’s lighting, control, and the ability to adjust systems as necessary. Harnessing the power of real-time data is key to managing building performance in 2021. Energy leaders know the value of using Energy Management Information Systems (EMIS) to advance sustainability goals, but as Sarah observed, industry-wide adoption continues to lag. Our survey identified the two biggest barriers to implementing an EMIS are the cost of adding meters (46%) and a lack of staff time to review EMIS output (46%). Energy teams routinely need to prove the ROI of automating manual processes to get buy-in for technology advancement. They need to demonstrate how an EMIS allows teams to focus on higher-value priorities that have the most impact on business objectives.

Lighting and controls are often the starting point for energy teams and property owners renovating or building new facilities. This approach lays a solid foundation for integrating advanced energy management solutions and continuous optimization.

Collecting real-time data is a powerful way to begin addressing continuous optimization. Facility operators and stakeholders need increased visibility into building-wide performance to make informed decisions about occupant health and building efficiency. And they need access to these tools on-site or remotely due to fluctuating work locations. BuildingOS® solutions centralize energy management, sharpen usage insights, and help demonstrate ROI. Uncover energy savings and improve your building performance with a BuildingOS energy management solution. 

Learn more about Acuity Brands' sustainability commitment and how our products and solutions reduce customer energy costs and lighten environmental impact.

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