Sustainability at core of Johnson Controls innovation centre

Background: The company recently opened the OpenBlue Innovation Centre at its global headquarters in Cork, dedicated to research and development into sustainability solutions.

Johnson Controls is spearheading sustainability and innovation at its global headquarters in Cork through the recent opening of the company’s new OpenBlue Innovation Centre. 

Dedicated to research and development into sustainability solutions, the technology will assist customers deliver decarbonisation and renewable energy goals while optimising building performance. 

The centre at One Albert Quay aims to create a future-ready built environment for both local and global customers, and is part of an international network of OpenBlue Innovation Centres. 

Serving as its regional centre of excellence to showcase the latest innovative solutions in a live environment, it is fitted with a suite of connected solutions designed for operational energy efficiency, occupant comfort and sustainability. 

It also features AI-powered service solutions such as remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, compliance monitoring and advanced risk assessments. OpenBlue is geared to serve a variety of industries, including workplaces, hospitals, schools, campuses, stadiums and enterprises.

Research and development

Research and development grants through IDA Ireland will support engineering activities at the centre, including developing a professional services hub for the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America region over a two-year period. 

Johnson Controls’ research and development presence has grown substantially in recent years and will see an expected 18 new research and development roles created in addition to 40 roles already in place. 

Research and development will focus on the global priority to reduce carbon emissions in the building sector, which accounts for up to 40 percent of global annual CO2 emissions — making it a key focus area in the pursuit of a net zero world.

“In addition to helping our customers achieve Net Zero, Johnson Controls is continuing to take significant steps to further improve our own environmental impacts,” explains Debbie Power, Johnson Controls Eco-System & Strategic Accounts Director EMEALA. 

In January 2021, the company announced a new set of ambitious sustainability commitments, including science-based targets across its operational and product-based emissions and a Net Zero carbon pledge for Scope 1 and 2 emissions. 

“We intend to cut Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 55 percent and our Scope 3 emissions related to our customers’ use of our products by 16% in absolute terms by 2030 relative to a 2017 baseline, along with actions supporting emissions reductions in our supply chain.” 

She adds that the company’s Scope 1 and 2 targets are consistent with the reductions required to restrict warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. 

We are moving quickly to act on our sustainability commitments, even while we reduce our footprint beyond the 70 percent reduction in both greenhouse gas intensity and energy intensity that we have already achieved since 2002

The OpenBlue Centre is effectively a culmination of the work carried out at One Albert Quay, in its position as the data source for Johnson Controls innovative output. Data is collected and analysed to obtain qualitative and quantitative understanding of the interactions among technology, well-being, and indoor environments. The intelligence generated is employed to create evidence-backed solutions for healthier, safer connected indoor spaces. 

“What people coming into the centre will experience is the output from the use of the building, which entails occupancy — using the lifts, the meeting rooms, the restaurant — and determining the optimum number for that given space. Under the sustainability theme, we focus on the use of energy and how peoples’ interaction is impacting on that usage.” 

Safety and security

The third aspect concerns security around access controls and the safety of persons within the building. “This centre at One Albert Quay will be the first of nine OpenBlue Centres across the globe, a space to bring our customers and partners to experience the whole sustainability topic in one closed environment area. 

“The fact that much of the innovation on display has been developed here in Cork speaks to the talent and expertise of the expert group of engineers and scientists here, and certainly stands as a reflection of the very important work being done here. This, in turn, feeds into the Cork economy while also drawing from the UCC and MTU graduate pool.” 

Johnson Controls currently has a workforce of 400, with the prospect of continued growth a realistic proposition into the future. 

Building on a 135-year history of innovation, the company continues to deliver a future blueprint for industries in the healthcare and educational sectors, in addition to data centers, airports, stadiums and manufacturing.

Across a team of 100,000 in over 150 countries, Johnson Controls offers a global portfolio of building technology, software and service solutions. Throughout its development, the OpenBlue Innovation Centre has benefited from a constant collaborative input from clients and partners in advance of its opening.

“Getting the input from the end user and customer in advance has been a key aspect in the collaborative process of Open Blue — to create and design the environment to flow in the way we would want a visit to actually work,” Debbie says.

“It is about determining what a visitor coming here actually wants — what are the challenges they are currently experiencing from a sustainability perspective or targeting towards Net Zero for their organisation. It is about planning out the day and how we can deliver on the goals and aspirations they have coming in.”

Debbie stresses the importance of Government support via the IDA as an additional key foundation in the development of OpenBlue: “We are in fact the only OpenBlue Innovation Centre in our region — Europe, Middle East, Africa, Latin America – a very large geographical area which will be covered from here in Cork. The IDA support was phenomenal in helping make it all happen.”