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Why Industry Collaboration Benefits Everyone

In engineering, it’s common to keep proprietary information, tools, and methods under wraps. This practice gives you a competitive edge, allowing you to stand out and secure projects. While this approach may work in established industries like oil and gas or vehicle design, the decarbonization industry is different. With the climate crisis becoming increasingly urgent, we don’t have the time for each team to make the same mistakes and learn through trial and error.

As consultants continue to make mistakes and produce subpar decarbonization projects, we are missing our targets and eroding confidence in low-carbon technologies. This is a significant issue.

I understand the fear that sharing your information might enable competitors to improve and win the projects you aim for. But the reality is that, right now, there aren’t enough good engineers doing decarbonization work, and if we want to meet our carbon reduction targets, we need many more people doing this type of work. The greatest threat to our industry isn’t competition with each other; it’s the risk of our industry developing a bad reputation and people losing faith in decarbonization strategies. This will result in less work for everyone.

Currently, SES spends about a quarter of our capacity fixing mistakes made by other consultants, whether in the original design or, more commonly, due to incomplete commissioning. This means we can handle 25% fewer new decarbonization projects. These mistakes are starting to affect important stakeholders’ opinions of low-carbon technologies seriously. I have building operators who refuse to use systems like solar DHW or CO2 heat pumps because of bad experiences. The entire operations department dislikes sustainability projects because, historically, they have resulted in increased comfort complaints, extra work, wasted money and suboptimal performance.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes as well, and that’s why we are so passionate about sharing what we’ve learned with others.  One way SES does this is by collaborating on developing a Commercial Building Electrification Guide. Sponsored by the Building to Electrification Coalition, BC Hydro, Metro Vancouver, and the City of Vancouver, this guide will walk you through the correct process of electrifying commercial buildings, including technical considerations for all engineering disciplines, building owners and procurement. The guide will be officially released in the fall of 2024, so stay tuned.

Another way SES shares knowledge is by teaching courses, many of which are at CIET. We are also aiming to transform the industry is by seeking opportunities to collaborate with our historical competitors to deliver high-value outcomes for clients and improve both companies. Traditionally, not collaborating with competitors has been the norm. But why should it stay that way? Imagine if we shared our learnings, resources, and experiences. By helping each other, we could elevate our collective expertise and ensure success in achieving the decarbonization goals that matter most. At this point, the risk of not collaborating is far greater than the potential loss of a competitive edge.

I think it’s time to transform our industry into a more collaborative one, and apparently, I’m not the only one. If you want to learn more about how to collaborate in your industry, check out Radical Climate Collaboration, a guidebook for accelerating climate action. Let’s share knowledge, support each other, and succeed together.