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Thermostat Maker Deploys Climate Control Against Climate Change

Johnson Controls persuades building owners to go energy-efficient

By Andrzej Zwaniecki | Staff Writer | 11 July 2008
Warren Johnson

Warren Johnson invented the electric room thermostat and started Johnson Controls.

This article is the third in a series on sustainable manufacturing.

Washington -- Johnson Controls Incorporated was into sustainability long before it became the buzz word for all things green and socially responsible. In 1883, its founder, Warren S. Johnson, invented an electric room thermostat, which launched the building control industry.

Today, Johnson Controls has 500 offices around the world that work to make all kinds of buildings energy-efficient, comfortable and safe. Its programs, which come with unique guarantees, make a difference both for building owners and the environment. Over the next 10 years, the company expects to help its commercial customers reduce energy costs by $18 billion and eliminate 352 million tons of air pollutants.

Johnson Controls takes a common-sense approach to energy efficiency technologies.

“We’re focused less on developing new technologies than we are on applying existing technologies for maximum efficiency,” said Monica Levy, director of brand and communications.

The company has used this approach to compete for more than 50 projects under the Clinton Climate Initiative, which aims to reduce energy consumption by and greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings in major cities. So far, it has won four contracts in Australia, India and Thailand and several in the United States.

David Love, director of private sector solutions at Johnson Controls’ building efficiency department, told America.gov that new technologies are not always well-suited to a customer’s particular needs. The mix of products, services and technologies depends on a customer’s financial situation, risk tolerance and other conditions.

The most obvious opportunities for energy savings -- such as fluorescent lighting, equipment upgrades and better insulation -- are in existing buildings. But owners of older buildings show the most resistance to energy-efficiency changes. They often prefer the status quo as long as operational costs do not look too bad.

Even when they decide to modernize, “too many times, people look at an energy-efficiency project as a one-time deal,” Love said.

Johnson Controls encourages customers to look beyond the obvious and to take the long, rather than short-term, view to keep initial energy savings and identify new opportunities as technology develops.

The company preaches what it has learned, and practices what it preaches. Not only did it establish a corporate team to implement an energy-efficiency program across the corporation, but it also set ambitious goals for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a plan to improve eco-efficiency of its supply chain. In 2009, it plans to complete its new “lean” headquarters in Milwaukee, which is being built partially from recycled materials, powered by renewable energy and surrounded by porous pavement that protects watersheds.

The company also encourages employees to find ways to become friendlier to the environment both at work and at home. Employees who make the effort report that they not only save energy but also get personal satisfaction.

More information about Johnson Controls’ building efficiency programs is available on the company’s Web site.

The Johnson Controls building in Milwaukee

The Johnson Controls building in Milwaukee is rated environmentally friendly and includes the original 1903 headquarters.

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