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Smart buildings seen as economic engine

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-13 16:24

Smart buildings that utilize technology to measure and conserve energy not only can help to improve cooperation between China and the US, the structures also can enable both countries to create economic development opportunities, said Clay Nesler, vice-president of global sustainability and industry initiatives at Johnson Controls Inc.

The US company manufactures energy-efficient products, control systems and batteries.

Nesler said that while China and the US are taking different approaches to implementing smart-building technologies, the end result is a boost for the economy of both nations.

"The US is focused on retrofitting existing buildings with the new technology," Nesler said in an interview on Tuesday in New York. "China is focused on new construction because half of all buildings currently being built are in China."

Incorporating technology to reduce water and energy use and improving building security are not only good for the environment, but also can bolster a company or building owner's bottom line.

Nesler said a good example is the Empire State Building in New York City, where a Johnson retrofitting project resulted in 38 percent energy savings and a three-year payback for the cost of the improvements.

Johnson Controls opened a second global headquarters in Shanghai last June. The first building on the mainland to receive triple green building certifications, it showcases the company's latest in smart-building technology.

"We designed that building (which can hold up to 1,600 people) to show off our latest technologies in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), building controls and security," Nesler said. "It is clearly a demonstration of our commitment to and investment in China."

China has already set a goal of 30 percent green buildings for new construction in 2020. Johnson Controls' Shanghai complex will help the company to expand and coordinate its business within the Asia-Pacific region as well as develop new markets and segments.

In 2016, Johnson completed its merger with Tyco, a global fire and security provider, and spun off its automotive business into a separate entity called Adient. The company is now focused on building products and technology and energy storage.

"We now have the ability to deliver integrated smart-building solutions, security and life-saving products and services that can also be applied to cities and communities," said Nesler.

In energy storage, Johnson's largest business in the segment is its traditional car battery business. The company's Varta brand is a top seller in Europe and is also carving out market share in China, according to Nesler.

"We are now doing a start-stop battery that automatically shuts a vehicle down when it stops and then starts it up again," said Nesler. "We are also making batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles."

Nesler said Johnson is also an eager participant in the US-China Clean Energy Research Center Building Energy Efficiency Consortium or CERC-BEE. It was started in 2010 and had its mandate extended from 2016-2020 to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in the two nations.

"Johnson is involved in Building Energy Efficiency which is led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California in the US and major universities like Tsinghua and Peking in China," Nesler said.

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