On a recent conference panel, I was disheartened to confirm something that I had already suspected. When someone has success with their smart building project, it’s kept top secret. So this month’s column is a combo of whinge and a business self-help article.

I find the level of secrecy to be a paradox that is as perplexing as it is counterproductive. Amidst all our industry’s strides towards a sustainable and more human-centric future, this culture of secrecy shrouds the huge successes that we’ve achieved. This guarded approach, while rooted in competitive instincts, unwittingly hampers the collective growth and innovation potential of the industry at large. If more clients believe in the potential of smart buildings, there’s more lunch for everyone to eat.

First, let's consider the irony. We’re an industry at the forefront of innovation and sustainability in the built environment. Our reticence to lose some kind of secret sauce means that at the wider ecosystem level, we’re all disadvantaged as collective learning is limited and evolution is slowed. The consequence? A sector that operates contrary to the very principles that our technology operates on - openness and connectivity.

The reluctance to divulge successes has tangible repercussions. It leads to a landscape where mistakes are not just made but repeated, and opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas are lost in the mists of missed communication. The lack of shared knowledge and experience hinders the development of robust benchmarks and standards, essential for the health and progression of any industry. How many client projects have we worked on where benchmarks are tough, and vendor pitches are wrapped in innuendo?

Imagine a different scenario. A world where successes in smart building projects are not hoarded but shared generously. This isn't just about altruism; it's about enlightened self-interest. Sharing success stories accelerates innovation, fostering an environment where lessons are learned swiftly, and advancements are made more rapidly. What if we didn’t need the word smart anymore because there’s enough collective wisdom to know where the return on investment lies?

The sharing of successes cultivates a fertile ground for collaboration. It transforms the industry from a series of isolated and often replicative efforts into a cohesive, dynamic community. This is where architects, technologists, environmentalists, and all stakeholders in the built environment converge (just like our IT infrastructure), not just to share triumphs but to collectively troubleshoot, innovate, and push the boundaries of what's possible.

Right now, I think that the smart building industry stands at a critical juncture. So next time you think you’ve struck gold, chances are, someone has already done it. Or that others can have a share of your gold without you losing any of your gold. Or they could help you find a way of maximising it for even more gold! Sharing successes is more than just a good practice; it's a necessity for an industry predicated on the principles of connectivity, sustainability, and innovation. Let's break the silence and unlock the true potential of collective growth in smart building projects. After all, in an interconnected world, a win for one can be a win for all.

With this spirit, we're not just building smart buildings; we're building a smarter, more collaborative industry. And that, perhaps, is the smartest move of all.

In Dr Marson’s monthly column, he’ll be chronicling his thoughts and opinions on the latest developments, trends, and challenges in the Smart Buildings industry and the wider world of construction. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, you're sure to find something of interest here.

Something to share? Contact the author: column@matthewmarson.com

About the author:

Matthew Marson is an experienced leader, working at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and the built environment. He was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering as Young Engineer of the Year for his contributions to the global Smart Buildings industry. Having worked on some of the world’s leading smart buildings and cities projects, Matthew is a keynote speaker at international industry events related to emerging technology, net zero design and lessons from projects. He was an author in the Encyclopaedia of Sustainable Technologies and a published writer in a variety of journals, earning a doctorate in Smart Buildings.