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Johnson Controls, the global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, addressed some of the HVACR industry's most challenging issues during an executive panel discussion at the 2022 AHR Expo in Las Vegas on Jan. 31. The most pressing issue discussed was decarbonization – an industry initiative to move away from energy systems that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.
Katie McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability and external relations officer, cited a global study to emphasize that most companies are making progress in pursuing their sustainability goals. The study, conducted in October 2021 by Forrester Consulting Group and commissioned by Johnson Controls, concluded that sustainability is now the top global business investment priority and that most companies see clear, competitive advantage from their sustainability focus and the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions.
"Slashing carbon emissions from buildings is critical in tackling climate change, since they represent nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions," McGinty told an audience of trade editors and other influencers. "There is no tackling climate change without substantial investment in buildings. We know that decarbonizing the built environment requires the digital transformation of buildings, including connected, energy-efficient HVAC equipment and controls."
The Forrester research also found that to accelerate decarbonization efforts, companies must align with stakeholder demands, collaborate with partners on transparent sustainability roadmaps and effectively measure the progress of sustainability initiatives.
To help meet current and future demands, Johnson Controls executives discussed how the company is leveraging leading-edge technology and its robust research and development pipeline to optimize its existing offerings. They include the company's OpenBlue suite of connected solutions and services as well as creating new offerings that meet, or exceed, customers' needs.
"We recently developed solutions such as OpenBlue Net Zero Buildings as a Service," McGinty said. "It's a one-stop shop for companies that want to achieve their net zero carbon and renewable energy goals. OpenBlue Net Zero Buildings includes turnkey access to successful building roadmaps, OpenBlue sustainability innovations, real-time performance dashboards and reporting that analyzes energy, water, materials and greenhouse gas emissions."
In addition to McGinty, the executives included Jeff Williams, president of Global Products, Michael Ellis, executive vice president, chief customer and digital officer, and Tyler Smith, executive director, healthy buildings, services and solutions. Jenny Stentz, vice president and general manager, HVAC and controls, North America, moderated the discussion.
Smith spoke about how critical indoor air quality is and will continue to be, especially in mitigating virus transmission as people go to school and work. "Building owners and operators have a responsibility to their occupants that they've prioritized their health and well-being and made the right investments in indoor air quality," Smith said. "To help with that, we developed a new offering, OpenBlue Indoor Air Quality as a Service, to help them follow through on that commitment, answer the call and ensure that they're making investments in their buildings and people that are backed by science."
Advancing technology that enables sustainability
The executives emphasized that Johnson Controls is committed to driving continual advancements in HVAC technology that enable a more sustainable future while ensuring compliance with government regulations, including the Department of Energy (DOE) 2023 energy efficiency standards and the industry's low-Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerant transition. The new DOE standards go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.
"To meet the requirements and help customers reduce energy use, Johnson Controls is taking several proactive steps," Williams said. "Our newest product lines were designed with the 2023 standards in mind, so many available products already meet or exceed mandated minimums. Existing product lines are being retested, optimized and relaunched in accordance with updated testing procedures that align with the new standards. Today, our chillers feature refrigerants with 56%-99% lower global warming potential when compared to conventional refrigerants, and we announced our ducted products will use a refrigerant with a nearly 80% reduction in GWP compared to high-GWP refrigerants, such as R-410A."
In addition, Johnson Controls has made several significant investments to prepare for the new standards. In the last three years, the company drastically expanded its Wichita, Kansas, residential HVAC testing laboratory and its Rooftop Center for Excellence in Norman, Oklahoma.
Preparing the HVACR industry for what's on the horizon
Toward the end of the panel discussion, the executives had an opportunity to touch on other key issues – from indoor air quality to connectivity to net-zero buildings – that will be in the industry's crosshairs this year and in years to come.
"As we move further into 2022, we at Johnson Controls continue to ask, What's next?" Williams concluded. "We are continuously considering what innovations and improvements we can make through our products, technologies and solutions. We want to help our customers best prepare for and respond to what's on the horizon."
To watch a recording of the executive panel, register at https://cvent.me/ZqZeBr and join the Johnson Controls AHR Virtual Experience (https://cvent.me/Ez2eNy). Once registered, a verification code will be emailed or texted within 60 seconds.