6th July 2021

Smart building budget shortfalls put sustainability at risk 

~ 87% relied on smart tech to keep buildings safe during COVID-19 ~ 

~ Budget abyss threatens to push back UK’s race to Net Zero ~ 

London, U.K., 6th July 2021 – Building decision-makers list budget constraints and buy-in from senior leadership as the two biggest barriers to their adoption of smart technologies, according to a new research report from Johnson Controls 

The report, ‘Thinking Smart: How the foundations of the UK will be defined by smart buildings [TO LINK WITH FINAL URL], 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.  

When it comes to the budget abyss, commercial office space organisations have to make their money stretch furthest, 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, while government and healthcare organisations feel they have sufficient budgets to see value from their smart technology investments. 

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

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


Priority in the next year 

Priority in the next five years 

Priority in the next ten years 

Occupant health & safety 




Regulatory compliance  




Employee experience 




Operational efficiency  




Energy efficiency  




Cost efficiency  








Sustainability & net-zero targets  








Figure 1: The short, medium and long-term goals of building decision-makers 

“Smart buildings haven’t only helped businesses get through the pandemic – they’re also essential to achieving ambitious sustainability targets like Carbon Net Zero,” said Andy Ellis, VP and General Manager, Johnson Controls UK&I. “Smart solutions that integrate with your fire, security, controls, HVAC, and occupancy systems can look across a whole building to see in real-time where efficiencies can be made. Without technologies like these to do the hard work for building staff, achieving new levels of sustainability targets and creating healthy workspaces – that support both the environment and employees – will be hard.” 

“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 do this by using 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.” 



This report was commissioned by Johnson Controls in April 2021 to uncover how smart buildings helped the UK & Ireland through the COVID-19 pandemic and how smart technology would be used to help organisations and the country reach its goals in the future. The survey was conducted among 100 building decision-makers across the UK & Ireland. Industries covered include central government, large scale healthcare, pharmaceutical, higher education and wider commercial real estate, such as retail and banking. All respondents came from organisations with 500+ employees. The interviews were conducted by Sapio Research via an online survey. 

About Johnson Controls 
At Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI), we transform the environments where people live, work, learn and play. As the global leader in smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, our mission is to reimagine the performance of buildings to serve people, places and the planet.   

With a history of more than 135 years of innovation, Johnson Controls delivers the blueprint of the future for industries such as healthcare, schools, data centres, airports, stadiums, manufacturing and beyond through its comprehensive digital offering, OpenBlue. With a global team of 100,000 experts in more than 150 countries, Johnson Controls offers the world's largest portfolio of building technology, software as well as service solutions with some of the most trusted names in the industry. For more information, visit www.johnsoncontrols.com/en-gb or follow us @JCI_UKI on Twitter and Johnson Controls UK&I on LinkedIn. 


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