As the emphasis on building energy efficiency increases, the demand for the technology to create that efficiency is also on the rise.

Some of the least efficient buildings are commercial, so this subset of buildings also has some of the greatest potential for savings from increasing that efficiency. If market projections are any indication, those savings will soon be realized.

In March, Boulder, Colo.-based market research firm Navigant released a study that highlights this trend. The study, “Advanced Sensors for Smart Buildings,” projects worldwide expansion for the technology that will help increase ­efficiency in commercial buildings.

According to the study, a new class of advanced building sensors has emerged that enable buildings to dramatically improve energy efficiency. Unlike existing commercial building energy systems, which Navigant describes as “dumb,” these sensors raise the energy IQ of building systems by enabling them to monitor changes in a building’s energy environment and make immediate adjustments.

Examples of the technology include occupancy sensors, carbon monoxide sensors, thermostats and photosensors. The report also offers some scenarios in which the technology can improve efficiency and lower energy costs.

For example, it notes that new, advanced occupancy sensors can match ventilation rates to the number of people in a room, helping to reduce energy use and improve air quality. Some sensors can also self-calibrate and correct for drift, which can help monitor and maintain equipment. Navigant states that advances in sensing technologies have made it possible to deploy low-power wireless sensors much deeper into buildings, improving monitoring and increasing efficiency even more.

Navigant forecasts that global shipments of advanced sensors will grow from 1.8 million units annually in 2013 to 28.4 million units in 2020. The firm projects worldwide revenue from advanced sensors for smart buildings to reach $3.65 billion by 2020.