Rising energy prices, government incentives, and enhanced public image are driving energy efficiency in buildings to new heights, the fifth annual global Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) reveals.

The survey of nearly 4,000 owners and operators of commercial and public-sector buildings in 13 countries on six continents was led by Johnson Controls' Institute for Building Efficiency, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), and the Urban Land Institute.

“We are seeing record levels of energy-management and reduction projects around the world, driven mainly by financial reasons, more than environmental concerns,” C. David Myers, president of building efficiency for Johnson Controls, said.

Although the primary motivation for energy-efficiency projects continued to be energy-cost savings, government/utility incentives/rebates and enhanced brand or public image also were important, ranking second and third in the survey, respectively. Greenhouse-gas reduction, which ranked second in 2010, slipped to fourth.

With eight in 10 respondents saying they expect double-digit energy-price increases over the next year, owners have set an average energy-reduction target of 12 percent.

“This year's survey clearly shows that there's growing urgency in making buildings more energy-efficient, and large strides have been made with the help of government incentives,” Myers said. “However, building owners continue to tell us that access to capital remains the top barrier for improving energy consumption.”

In the United States/Canada, lack of available capital was cited as the top barrier to energy-efficiency investments by 38 percent of respondents, followed by inability to meet financial-payback criteria (21 percent), lack of certainty that promised savings will be achieved (10 percent), lack of awareness of opportunities for energy savings (7 percent), and lack of technical expertise to design and complete projects (6 percent).

The survey also found:

  • Energy management is important to a growing number of respondents: seven in 10, up from six in 10. Respondents in India (88 percent) and China (84 percent) expressed the most interest, followed by respondents in the United States/Canada (66 percent) and Europe (61 percent).

  • Three of four respondents have set energy- or carbon-reduction goals.

  • Nearly four in 10 respondents — twice as many as last year — have at least one green-building certification under their belt. An additional 32 percent have incorporated elements of green buildings.

  • Respondents pursued an average of 8.9 energy-efficiency improvements over the previous year, with lighting (72 percent) and HVAC and/or controls improvements (63 percent) leading the way.

  • Building owners have greater access to energy data, but few are taking advantage of it. More than eight in 10 record data at least weekly or monthly, but fewer than two in 10 review and analyze data at least weekly. Those who have implemented smart-grid/smart-building technology, such as advanced energy metering and management systems, are nearly three times more likely to review and analyze data frequently.

  • Organizations that (1) established energy- or carbon-reduction goals, (2) measured and analyzed energy-usage data at least monthly, (3) added resources through hiring, repurposing, or retraining employees or sought external support from consultants or other service providers, and (4) used external financing sources implemented four times as many improvements as those that did not.

For the United States/Canada, the survey shows:

  • A double-digit increase in the percentage of building owners who believe energy management is important (66 percent, compared with 52 percent last year).

  • Building owners expect greater adoption rates over the next 10 years for lighting and smart-building technologies than for renewable-energy technologies.

  • Seventy-seven percent of building owners intended to include green-building elements in facility plans over the succeeding 12 months.

“These survey results speak to an increasing number of building owners and operators turning to smart, high-performance building technology to achieve their energy-efficiency goals,” Tony Keane, CAE, IFMA president and chief executive officer, said. “Managing and operating buildings at peak efficiency will require facility professionals to strengthen their skill sets to successfully utilize these complex building technologies. As more high-performance buildings come online over the next decade, training and credentialing will play an essential role in helping facility professionals manage these buildings at optimal performance levels.”

For more on the 2011 EEI, go to http://bit.ly/EEI_2011.

Send news items to the attention of Scott Arnold, executive editor, HPAC Engineering, The Penton Media Building, 1300 E. Ninth St., Cleveland, OH 44114-1503; e-mail: scott.arnold@penton.com; fax: 913-514-6315. Electronic submissions are preferred.