The push toward building efficiency led quite naturally to an involvement in the development of sustainability in the building and construction industry.
“We were involved in the development of LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] from the very first day,” Nesler says. “We were one of the first members of the U.S. Green Building Council and had an employee very active on the board.”
In fact, the company’s Brengel Technology Center in Milwaukee was part of the original pilot program for LEED for New Construction and was certified LEED Silver in 2001. The 130,000-square-foot center was the first building to be recertified from Silver to Gold in 2004 in the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED EB) pilot program.
“We now have a standard that any new facilities be LEED-certified anywhere in the world,” Nesler says. “That applies to manufacturing facilities, office buildings, and any new construction or major renovation project.”
In 2010, Johnson Controls received LEED Platinum certification for four buildings on its expansive site in Glendale, Wisconsin.
In 2010, the company received LEED Platinum certification for four buildings on its 33-acre corporate campus in Glendale, Wisconsin, which represented the largest concentration of Platinum buildings ever awarded on a single corporate site. The campus energy usage was reduced by 21 percent despite doubling the amount of space by adding 160,000 square feet.
That same year, Johnson Controls also launched the Institute for Building Efficiency (IBE), which studies technologies, policies and practices related to high-performance buildings and energy systems. Last year, Johnson Controls, in partnership with a global research organization called the World Resources Institute (WRI), introduced a Building Efficiency Initiative meant to expand the scope of the IBE’s work to a global level.
“That’s basically how we’re taking our commitment to efficient and sustainable buildings and globalizing it,” Nesler says. “With WRI, we’re hoping to accelerate investment in energy-efficient buildings around
Johnson Controls has now certified more than 2 million square feet of its own buildings to LEED and more than 20 million square feet for its customers, Nesler says. The company at one time had the largest number of employees certified as LEED APs and LEED Green Associates in the world, a number that currently stands at 995.
Molly Powell, a solutions program manager at Johnson Controls, is one of them, with a LEED AP Operations + Maintenance credential. Powell, who studied conservation and environmental studies at university, said a particularly rewarding project for her was the LEED certification in 2012 of Miller Park, the baseball stadium of the Milwaukee Brewers. The third Major League Baseball stadium ever to be LEED certified, Miller Park was particularly complicated to certify due to its retractable roof, said Powell, who managed the project.
“It was a lot of calculations that had to be done, and a lot of engineering work” to meet the special energy and ventilation requirements, she says. “I think Johnson Controls really demonstrated our leadership and commitment to energy efficiency and green building practices through this project right in our own backyard.”
Like Miller Park, other energy efficiency projects handled by Johnson Controls have been growing in scope and complexity in recent decades. For instance, in late 2013, the company was awarded a 20-year contract by the Hawaii Department of Transportation to reduce energy usage by about 49 percent at 12 Hawaiian airports for a total savings of $518 million. Energy cost savings will fund the entire project over the contract term, instead of taxpayers.
“It’s the largest project of its kind that we know of,” says Nesler, detailing the replacement of 75,000 light fixtures, upgrades to HVAC equipment and controls and the installation of 8,100 solar photovoltaic panels. “It’s a great example of the scale to which energy efficiency and renewable energy can be taken through energy savings performance contracting.”
When it comes to environmental stewardship, Johnson Controls continues to lead through example, Nesler says. The company has reported its sustainability data since 2002 and follows the Global Reporting Initiative G4 guidelines, with additional reporting to the United Nations Global Compact Communication of Progress and the Carbon Disclosure Project.
For the past couple of years, the company has been asking more than 200 of its major suppliers to set sustainability goals and report progress to the Carbon Disclosure Project supply chain program. Johnson Controls is also providing training to help them do this and has expanded the program to include smaller suppliers.
“We wanted to take the best practices that we have developed and applied across our own facilities and take them to our small- and medium-enterprise suppliers who may be lacking the necessary resources or expertise,” Nesler says. “It helps them reduce their energy use and costs while making them more sustainable and competitive, and it’s been very well received. So we hope to expand this program over time and be able to help many more of our suppliers around the world become more sustainable.”