Johnson Controls, the global provider for smart and sustainable buildings, announced the official opening of its S$50 million OpenBlue Innovation Center to create a future-ready built environment for Singapore and the region. The new facility, located within the School of Design and Environment (SDE), at the National University of Singapore (NUS), will be a living laboratory for a new breed of customizable, contact-free applications built on Johnson Controls unifying digital technology suite, OpenBlue. Together with its ecosystem of partners — which includes NUS and Microsoft — the center is pioneering the use of a common configuration language that bridges core building technology, as well as behavioral, wellness and spatial data to develop solutions that meet new demands for safety and sustainability in connected spaces.

Safety and energy usage of buildings

The announcement is a testament to Johnson Controls' commitment to develop advanced digital solutions

The announcement is a testament to Johnson Controls' commitment to develop advanced digital solutions that can improve performance, reliability, safety and energy usage of buildings and its occupants. It will allow the company to further build on unique technologies and innovations from similar state-of-the-art sites it currently operates in:

  • Cork (Ireland)
  • Milwaukee and Birmingham (USA)
  • Wuxi (China)
  • Pune (India)
  • San José (Costa Rica)

These centers are all designed to accelerate the reinvention of urban living, with significant investments targeted at digital innovation.

"Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will play a pre-eminent role in reshaping how we create comfort for people and energy efficiency in a building", said Mike Ellis, executive vice president and chief customer & digital officer for Johnson Controls. “Our unprecedented focus of co-innovating cutting-edge technologies through collaborations such as with NUS will spark greater innovation and true differentiation for our customers."

Net-zero energy building

The ecosystem of partners will tap on the intelligence generated from the center to create evidence-backed solutions

The 240 square-meter center, housed in SDE4, Singapore's new-build net-zero energy building, will have sensors fitted throughout the indoor space — including overhead ventilation to measure air flow.

The lab staff and collaborating researchers will collect and analyze data using Johnson Controls unifying technology suite and analytics to obtain qualitative and quantitative understanding of the interactions among technology, well-being, and indoor environments. The ecosystem of partners will tap on the intelligence generated from the center to create evidence-backed solutions for healthier, safer connected indoor spaces.

NUS will serve as a testbed for OpenBlue Innovation Center's pioneering solutions, which will help the university in its ongoing efforts to develop a smart, sustainable and safe campus for its staff and students. The collaboration also includes joint research and innovation in the areas of built and urban environments, particularly in data analytics, sustainability and operations, as well as people and wellness. There will also be opportunities for collaborations on teaching and internship programs.

Agile and sustainable space usages

OpenBlue, is a complete suite of connected solutions and services

The underlying Johnson Controls unifying technology suite, OpenBlue, is a complete suite of connected solutions and services that combine the Company's 135 years of building expertise with cutting-edge digital technology.

This open digital platform, when integrated with Johnson Controls core building systems and enhanced by ecosystem partners, connects traditionally separate systems to create new capabilities for safer, more agile and sustainable space usages.

With support from the Singapore Economic Development Board, the facility is expected to have more than 100 employees within four years. Johnson Controls currently employs around 800 employees throughout Singapore, and has its products installed in many of the commercial buildings in Singapore. The investment marks the company's commitment to spearhead the creation and adoption of disruptive solutions for the built environment industry in the region.

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Lessons From The Past: The Value Of Ventilation In A Pandemic
Lessons From The Past: The Value Of Ventilation In A Pandemic

If history truly repeats itself, might we learn lessons from the past – even lessons about managing a novel coronavirus that upends our way of life and changes the world forever? The most commonly cited parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic is the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Both diseases are caused by viruses that had not been seen before. In both cases, no one had immunity to a highly infectious germ that was spread through respiratory droplets. Both outbreaks occurred in multiple waves over several years. Furthermore, in both cases, it became clear that ventilation, fresh air, open spaces and sunlight are useful factors in promoting good health. Fresh Air Movement During the time of the Spanish flu, there were signs posted in buses and throughout New York that advised: "Keep your bedroom windows open [to] prevent influenza, pneumonia [and] tuberculosis." There was even a national campaign known as the “Fresh Air Movement,” calling for people to be outside more, and urging greater ventilation indoors. The movement included a kind of traveling show that spread the word about the “national poison,” which was the result of people breathing stale air inside closed rooms. These concerns predated by decades our enthusiasm for “indoor air quality.” In became common after 1918 to position radiators providing steam heat under open windows to combine warmth with fresh air, even on the coldest of days.   The Open-Air Treatment of Pandemic Influenza It was also common practice by 1918 to place the sick outside in tents or in specially designed open wards But the advantages of fresh air go back even further, as described in a 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) titled “The Open-Air Treatment of Pandemic Influenza.” During the 1918 pandemic, as today, many cities banned public assembly, closed schools, isolated those infected and mandated the wearing of face masks. It was also common practice by 1918 to place the sick outside in tents or in specially designed open wards, according to the AJPH article. The practice dates back to English physician John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815), who was among the first advocates of the “open-air method.” The 1800s saw emergence of tuberculosis sanitoriums, which treated the lung disease with a combination of fresh air, gentle exercise in the open, nutrition, and a minimum of medicines. Lack of ventilation Spending time in well-ventilated houses in the country became seen as superior to patients being confined to warm, badly ventilated rooms to protect them from the supposedly harmful effects of cold air. Lack of ventilation forced patients to breathe foul air, contaminated with germs, over and over. Research later confirmed the importance of measures to prevent influenza virus from spreading through buildings. Improvements in air-handling equipment, portable filtration units, and introduction of physical barriers and other partitions or doors also provided protection. These lessons were clear long before the advent of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Their successful deployment during the pandemic have further supported their value. importance of HVAC Although the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, there were plenty of historical precedents However, lockdowns during the pandemic have also tended to keep the population closed up in buildings, sometimes with less-than-adequate ventilation and access to fresh air. In retrospect, some of those decisions seem regrettable.  Although the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, there were plenty of historical precedents. Copious research over the years supported the best approaches to stemming the spread of the virus, although it took time for historical insights to work their way into the general practice implemented in the current pandemic. There is also historical precedent for the importance of HVAC in the current pandemic. Ventilation and fresh air have become higher priorities, as has the HVAC market’s role in providing a safer indoor climate with minimal disease spread.

Change Environments Not Behaviors: How Active Air Filtration Can Help the UK Come Out of Lockdown Long-Term
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