Broken buildings and the hierarchy of needs

By Switch Automation • February 27, 2018

Stranded assets. Data living in a myriad of spreadsheets across an organization. No enterprise-wide insight for senior leaders. Lack of real-time decision support. Increasing expectations to manage complex operations with a shrinking budget and fewer staff. In this second installation of our three-part blog series, we examine broken buildings and the hierarchy of needs that operators face when managing them.

In our first post, Broken buildings and the power of people, we highlighted the industries and roles most affected by today’s broken buildings. In the past, real estate and facility management professionals were forced to rely on siloed solutions to manage the rapidly evolving ecosystem of buildings and technology. Now, traditional building management has reached a pivotal moment. Isolated point solutions, spreadsheets and stand-alone BMSs are no longer enough to manage the tidal wave of data pouring in from our assets. So, how can we effectively manage our buildings?

Maslow’s Hierarchy

In 1943, Abraham Maslow, a well-known psychologist developed his famous hierarchy of needs. His theory posited that humans are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some of those needs take priority over others. Basic needs are physiological and must be met in order for a person to advance to the psychological, followed by the fully actualized tiers.

Broken buildings and the hierarchy of needs

Facility management is no different. Often, the tyranny of the urgent reigns supreme and busy building managers are bogged down by base-level tasks due to inefficient processes, disconnected assets and lack of end-to-end solutions.

We used data from a recent report by independent research firm Verdantix that incorporated interviews with over 300 real estate executives to create our own Building Management Hierarchy of Needs:

Obstacles to smart building success

It’s tough for an on-site facilities team to focus on occupant wellbeing when they’re busy running hot/cold calls each day. Similarly, how can a CEO focus on curating an industry-leading brand image, while distracted by hazardous building conditions that threaten daily operations? These are just a some of the reasons we get stuck:

Scattered Data

Vast amounts of building data are stored in spreadsheets, on-site systems, outsourced to vendors or recorded on paper– if it’s even collected at all. Because it’s segregated within multiple departments, regions and users, the data is like an unmined diamond; valueless until discovered and shaped by a master craftsman. This scattered data combined with the elements of human error and ongoing hardware and software procurements means there is no single, accurate source of information to base operational decisions on.

Varied Systems and Hardware

A multitude of different data-producing building systems, such as HVAC, lighting control, security and energy monitoring systems, as well as different hardware manufacturers, models, protocols and network architectures make standardizing data to gain actionable insights nearly impossible.

Specialized Skill Sets

Traditionally, building technologies were only available as hardware solutions, featuring proprietary, confusing operating software. At the enterprise scale, these technologies require significant operating budgets and skilled engineering professionals. As a result, building management systems (BMS) or building automation systems (BAS) are poorly commissioned, underutilized and do not fulfill the current or future needs of real estate professionals.

Technological Chaos

Technological advancements and emerging software solutions are driving massive changes in real estate operations and management. All of these changes can be confusing at best, overwhelming at worst, and make it difficult for real estate and facility management professionals to make the right procurement decisions.

Pressure to go “Green”

Companies are under pressure to reduce environmental impact, but they don’t have data-driven benchmarks to help them create results-oriented sustainability programs. Even though more than 50% of the 2050 building stock is already built, less than 2% of the world’s building inventory has a green building rating (UNEP).

There is a solution

The Building Management Hierarchy of Needs outlines the operational stages we must ascend to move from reactive to proactive to predictive maintenance. Regardless of where your portfolio is on the journey to smart building success, there are a plethora of solutions available to help you navigate broken buildings and the hierarchy of needs to reach your goals.

Now that you understand the critical people and milestones to reach as you implement an effective smart building program, we’ll explain how to overcome the obstacles in each tier of the building management hierarchy. Be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter to receive our final installment of the series, Broken buildings and the path to success!

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