The pandemic has changed the way many people view the world. It has made them more aware of major threats, not just from another virus, but also from the changing climate. A panel of executives from Johnson Controls Inc. spoke during the 2022 AHR Expo about the ways the HVAC industry can help address those concerns.

The pandemic showed the whole world what researchers have been saying for years, and that’s that indoor air quality matters, said Tyler Smith, executive director of healthy buildings services and solutions for JCI. As people return to buildings ranging from factories to schools, they want to know what steps have been taken to improve the ventilation, circulation, and filtration in those facilities. Smith said going forward, people are now aware of the impact of IAQ on everything from test scores to insurance costs.

Of course, all the advances in IAQ could be offset if they only increase a building’s energy usage. JCI is working to avoid that, Smith said, as part of its greater commitment to helping its customers achieve sustainability goals.

Buildings represent almost 40% of global greenhouse emissions, said Katie McGinty, chief sustainability and external relations officer for JCI. There’s a number of forces pushing building owners and operators toward electrification and decarbonization. Investors, for example, are taking sustainability into account when deciding where to put their money. Governments are offering incentives, while at the same time putting regulations into place to offer another kind of incentive. These include the upcoming SEC rule that requires more environmental disclosure and the building performance standards being adopted by several states.

“The exciting part is the technology, the innovation and the partnerships are already there to really accelerate action,” McGinty said.

Jeff Williams, president of global products for JCI, said its facilities in Wichita, Kansas, and Norman, Oklahoma both feature labs to ensure the environment performance of the company’s products.  

Electrification requires digitization to reach the highest efficiency. If everything switched over to electric overnight, it would crash the grid, McGinty said. Michael Ellis, chief customer and digital officer for JCI, explained the ways digital controls are helping all these efforts.

“Digital solutions have such an immense range that it’s hard to think of an area that isn’t driving impact and high value to customers,” Ellis said.

Buildings are starting to learn on their own to make adjustments to improve IAQ and energy efficiency. These advancements in technology will also help to help contractors manage the labor shortage.

“It’s probably the most exciting time to be in this industry,” said Jenny Stentz, vice president and general manager of HVAC and controls for JCI.