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14 min read

SBA 219: The Controls Hierarchy of Needs

By Phil Zito on Sep 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Topics: Podcasts

In this episode, we discuss the controls hierarchy of needs and how to best serve your customers based on their needs.

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Phil Zito 00:00

This is the smart buildings Academy podcast with Phil Zito Episode 219. Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome to Episode 219 of the smart buildings Academy podcast. And in this episode, we are going to be talking through the controls hierarchy of needs. Now, why the controls hierarchy of needs? Well, I feel personally that we have lost our way over the past couple months, I see a lot of people writing on LinkedIn, and on social and in their marketing, about needing smart buildings about buildings needing to be net zero about us needing to follow the guidelines of companies that have way more cash flow than we could ever possibly dream of having. And we need to follow them by establishing renewables and all of these wonderful technologies. And I feel as if that is so far, on the top end of the controls hierarchy of needs, that we are forgetting, really what our customers are dealing with. And it is going to make us very ineffective in our messaging to them. Yeah, sure, it sounds popular. And it sounds really cool. And you seem very, very woke to be saying, hey, let's go and save the planet. And let's go and be sustainable. And I don't think anyone would disagree with you. First off, they don't want to get flamed for disagreeing with you. But second off, I think we all agree that we want to be good stewards of our environment. At the same time, though, we also need to remember that just like with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we need to take care of the core needs before we can ever think about higher level needs. So Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if you're not familiar with it, I wasn't really until my wife got her master's degree, and really started being a therapist and started communicating some of those ideas to me Maslow's hierarchy of needs is the concept that you have to take care of your physical, physiological needs which like air, food, water shelter first, and only then can you start to think about your safety needs things like personal security employment, and only then can you start to think about loving beyond belonging, and only then can you start to think about esteem needs, you know, your status recognition. And only then after all of that has been satisfied. Can you hit your self actualization needs, you know, becoming the best you can be? Well, just like that, something I haven't heard a lot of folks talk about, but it's something we definitely need to cover is the controls hierarchy of needs. And here's how I see it. First, we have our physical needs very much like Maslow's hierarchy, we have our physical needs. From there, we have our safety needs. From there, we have our efficiency needs. From there, we have our experiential needs, and then we have our environmental needs. Now, all that being said, why should you care about the controls hierarchy of needs, if you're in sales, if you are running us, building automation business, if you're a consultant, if you are going and providing guidance, maybe as a service tech, understanding this hierarchy of needs will help you to frame exactly where your customers are at the problems they're facing and how you can best be of service to them. So I challenge you to set any biases you may have aside and follow me through in this episode. While we look at the hierarchy of needs from a controls perspective, we consider what that means. And we consider how we can best engage with our customers.


Phil Zito 04:06

My hope is that coming out of this, all of us will be more cognizant of where our customers are at the challenges they're facing right now. So that we're not just trying to push our products or our solutions or our ideas on them, but we're actually meeting them where they're at with the challenges they're facing. And we are then addressing those challenges by providing solutions that directly address the needs they currently have, not the needs they may have in the future, or the needs they can't even care about because they're just trying to keep a business running. So first off, we have physical needs from a building perspective. Those physical needs are right we have to have working systems, our systems have to actually work. It does us no good if these control or mechanical systems within the building do not work. work. If those systems are not working, then we cannot deliver our environment in such a way that the business use of the building is not impacted. So we need to take care of those physical needs of having working systems. This leads us to maintenance. This leads us to providing maintenance for our customers, if our customers are sitting there, and even if they have a building that is not occupied right now and does not have cash flow through tenants, they still need to keep those systems working, because if they don't control the environment, they could have mold, they could have interior damage, they could have all sorts of issues that are going to cost more to fix in the long run and are going to provide some immediate damages as well. We also have to take care of power and fuel. So power and fuel are incredibly important, right, we need to be able to power our systems. So we need to make sure that we have power coming into the building that we have fuel coming into the building. So this is


Phil Zito 06:06

where customers have to make a decision, right? If they have no cash flow for the building, because tenants aren't paying bills. And they are sitting there trying to figure out what do I keep maintaining? Well, you want to maintain your working systems at at least standby and unoccupied set points. And you want to maintain your electrical and gas bills so that you can keep those systems working. So we can assist customers in doing this maybe through maintenance with delayed billing, things like that. safety needs. So once we've satisfied those physical needs, we can move into safety needs. And from a safety perspective, we look at the physical safety of both the building itself as well as the tenants and we look at technical safety and in that specific order. So physical safety is making sure that the systems not only are they working physically, but they are working per their sequences. So we are hyper pressurizing stairways to the point where if there's a fire, someone can't open the door. We aren't bringing in outdoor air from a loading dock and providing dangerous SEO gases and making people sick, or being cognizant of the best guiding recommendations on Coronavirus and implementing them in our building to provide an optimal indoor air environment. Those are all the physical aspects we want to think about when it comes to our building. We also want to ensure that we're providing a safe work environment. But from a controllability perspective, what we as building automation professionals can actually impact we can impact those working systems making sure they're efficient and making sure we're implementing the best indoor air quality and health recommendations. And that is more of a consultative perspective, both from service side as well as from the install side. Then we move on to technical safety. This is something a lot of people don't consider. But we need our systems to be reasonably secure. I say reasonably secure, because we don't need the same level of cybersecurity that the Pentagon has for a commercial office building. So we need secure systems, but they need to be reasonably secure. We also need reliable systems this may be putting uninterrupted power supplies in this may be stocking extra parts. So we can quickly replace things as they fail. But we need secure systems and we need reliable systems. Those are two really important aspects that we need to consider from the safety side of things. Next up, we have efficiency needs. And how I look at this first is staff efficiency and then resource efficiency. So staff efficiency, we're talking about ease of use, we want our systems to be easy to use for the staff. We want them to be able to understand how to use them, we want the graphics to be easy to navigate. We want people to be properly trained. From there, we work into the workflow, we want to understand our customers staffs workflow, and we want to enhance that workflow. If the ultimate goal being that the speed of resolution for issues is faster, so if we can get the customer get the customer staff to resolve issues faster, then the tenant impact will be lowered. And the cost of that issue will potentially be lowered as well. So ultimately, we start with ease of use, then we optimize workflow and that all leads to speed of resolution. This may look like things like analytics this may look like fault detection. This may look like digital When technology things to model out Building Performance so that we can make best judgments to drive staff staff efficiency. To that point, we also want to look at resource efficiency. Now, this is not to be confused with environmental efficiency, which we'll cover later in the hierarchy of needs. resource efficiency, we're looking at efficient sequences. So we want to make sure that the sequences we utilize are efficient. In some cases, these will be like guideline 36 sequences and other cases, these will just be basic sequences that are properly tuned, we want to make sure we have accurate systems, we can have efficient systems, but if they're not accurate, then they're not efficient. So you could argue that accurate systems could come before efficient sequences, but you know, they're kind of intermixed, accurate systems mean sensor accuracy, having the right placement of sensors, this is where retro commissioning comes into play. We also look at practical control, we want to make sure not only are we implementing efficient sequences with accurate systems, but that the control is practical, meaning that your average person can troubleshoot it and understand how it works. It's not so complex that you need a PhD in nuclear physics to be able to deduce what the heck your control system is trying to do.


Phil Zito 11:23

From there, and this is where I feel like I'll get a little bit of argumentation from folks is going to be around experiential needs versus environmental needs, I believe that we should focus on experiential needs first. The reason why is a lot of the costs associated with environmental needs are going to assume that we have cash flow coming in the door. Because the sole goal of a business ideally, unless it's a non profit, is to make a profit and stay in business. You can't do that if you are not drawing tenants or not improving the business use of the building as such to increase profitability. So experiential needs, in my opinion come before environmental needs. First experiential need that we look at is occupant experience. And that would be tenant ease of use, and tenant intuitive use. Now those sounds similar, but they're not. The first tenant ease of use means that the tenant can easily use the system. But they still have to think about it, they still have to go to a thermostat and think about using it, they still have to open an app and think about using it. It is easy to use, but it is not intuitive. So there's still some training involved. Eventually, you want to move to the intuitive views. Now intuitive views is a use scenario in which the tenant does not have to be trained on how to use it. When you think about intuitive usage of your house, do you have to be trained on how to open a door? How to insert a key into a door and open it probably not? Do you have to be trained on changing the temperature in a hotel room that you've never been to before? Usually not. Sometimes, I mean, you may need a little bit of a placard there saying hey, put it in cooling mode. But for the large part, those experiences are intuitive. So you're taking the ease of use. And you're making it as such that it is intuitive. And this is where I believe a lot of the tenant experience technologies are moving towards. And we're going to see increasingly where the use of technologies by the occupant is going to be intuitive. It may be to the point where you schedule a conference room in Outlook, and it asks your tech your temperature preference, and it automatically takes care of all of that for you. And that is going to be an experience and the more of those experiences we have with the tenant, the higher likelihood they're to be satisfied with their building experience to utilize the building and to be continuing to remain tenants of a building. Then we have owner experience. So I talked about occupant experience first and the reason I talk about that first is because that is where the cash comes from, for the building owner. And then we move to owner experience. And this is where we're going to look at scalability configurability and visualization. scalability is the ability to expand your system say you need to add new technologies that haven't been invented yet. configurability the ability to change space types. I believe one of the things we're going to see coming out of Coronavirus as we start to reoccupy is in an increased focus on micro leases as well as having space configurability the ability to change the space use type, almost on demand. And this will require systems that are easily configurable by the owner. And then finally, visualization. I also believe that we are going to come out of this Coronavirus situation having to visualize and report on data in mass, especially IQ data. And that is going to require platforms that provide easy visualization because let's be honest, a lot of the stuff out there, while it's easy for the controls person is not necessarily easy for the owner. So we really need to get to simple visualization that does not require anything more complex than potentially clicking a couple buttons. From there, we move into the environmental needs. And this is where we start to look at environmental efficiency. And we look


Phil Zito 16:01

specifically at sustainability and efficiency. So sustainability, I really don't like that word. But I do like that word at the same time. So sustainability when it's meant to do something that is sustainable. And it's meant to say, Hey, we can keep doing this again, and again. And again. I like that term. But when it's meant, in a way of, hey, let's ignore that a lot of these technologies aren't effective and aren't efficient. And actually, in some case of some renewables are things like hydrogen fuel cells, etc. Where it creates more pollution to actually implement those technologies than it does that are then the pollution that they negate, that's not sustainable, that's just doing things to look good. So I, what I don't want you to hear is that I'm against environmental efficiency, I firmly believe we have one planet, and we need to take care of it, we need to be efficient, and we all need to be good stewards. That being said, we need to be intelligent stewards, we need to not just follow something because some large companies doing it and assume that that's the best way, there's a difference between making the popular choice and making the right choice. That being said, I do believe that once we have met these other needs, we do need to start to look at our efforts to make buildings sustainable, and to make buildings efficient. Because if we can go and be more efficient, whether that's through how we distribute power, how we absorb power, how we run our systems, how we control our systems, we should we have a duty to go and make sure that we are being environmentally efficient. However, I firmly believe that that is the last need that we need to consider. Now. So surely, you could argue that that's the first need because that's what everyone looks like looks at. And it's a very popular topic. And you're pretty much flamed if you say that it's not the most important thing. That being said, it's all well and good until you can't afford to run a business. And then it doesn't really matter. Because if you can't run a business, if you can't stay profitable, and your business goes out of business, because you're trying to stick solar panels on everything, then that makes no sense. So that is why I believe it is the last of the needs. That's not to say it's the least important. It just requires us to meet many other needs. Now, how do you use this? How do you come out of this podcast episode and actually take action. What I want to challenge you to do is to think about what you're positioning if you're doing webinars or you're bringing products to market, I completely understand if you are a analytics company, or if you're a smart buildings company, or you're trying to do systems integration, or you're trying to put your integration platform into a building. I completely understand that you need to message about smart buildings and you need to convince people that tenant experience is great because you sell tenant experience apps or integration of all these legacy platforms is great because then people can have greater staff efficiency. And on the macro, I don't disagree with you, all those things are good, they are good and they do have their use. Where I challenge you is to understand where your customers at on this hierarchy of needs. And then to go and help them move up the ladder help them move up this hierarchy of needs this pyramid Guess and help them figure out how they can satisfy these other needs. Because if you do that, then it will be that much easier to go and sell whatever you're trying to sell to support whatever you're trying to support. If you have a customer who their systems barely work, they're using 1970s technology, they have no tenants, because their buildings are essentially a crap hole, and you're trying to sell them an integration platform, then you're trying to compete against a bunch of unmet needs that they have to address first. Now, granted, I realized that that's a little extreme of an example. At the same time, though, we're seeing those kind of examples all the time where people are, Hey, get this platform, it's the perfect solution, get this software, it's the perfect solution, and not considering where their customers are


Phil Zito 20:56

  1. I don't mean to rail on you, I really hope I don't sound judgmental, and that I'm just trying to beat people over the head. But I do want you to consider this because there will come a time when we're not in this coronavirus crisis, and the economy's doing well again, and everything's all well and good. And people will remember those who tried to help them and those who just tried to sell them something. And I want you to be the people who tried to help your customers, not just trying to sell them something not saying that's what you're doing. But I'm just saying being aware of where people are at in this hierarchy of needs, will really help you position your services, it will really open discussions that are based on where your customers at and who knows you may find opportunities that you didn't even know existed. So I hope this episode gives you a different perspective than what you're hearing out there with everyone kind of saying the exact same thing. And and not really providing a different perspective. I hope this gives you a different perspective gives you a different way of thinking. And I really hope that you come out of this episode, thinking about how can I meet my customer with where they're at? How can I help them move up this ladder really fulfill their needs, so that they can have the best building and best experience as they move through the rest of this year? Thanks a ton for listening. I know this was kind of a stranger episode, but it's just something that's really been weighing on me heavily. And I felt like I had to say something about it. Thanks a ton. I look forward to talking to you all again next week. Take care
Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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