4 min read

Part 10: The Messy Middle [Nexus Newsletter #134]

Hey friends,

Today, we're wrapping up our series on Nexus Lore: the core concepts that come up again and again in this newsletter, on the Nexus podcast, in the Nexus Foundations course, in Nexus Pro gatherings, and in the community chatroom.

If you want to start at the beginning, check out our white paper with all 10 parts: Nexus Lore.

Lore is never written by one person, so send us your feedback for v2!

The Messy Middle

Let's conclude by collectively accepting one important truth: We live in a world where very few vendors or building owners are aligned with The Horizontal Architecture. Despite this vision for the future, the industry keeps on ticking. Old habits die hard.

If we look around, siloed point solutions are gaining market share each day. There are Device Layer vendors selling the mythical "Single Pane of Glass" application. There are "digital twins" and "building operating systems" and "smart building platforms" that combine many layers.

I’m not being pessimistic; I’m being realistic. Once we converge on a common vision, we then need to converge on a path to get there. And we definitely don’t have that path yet. We lack a common plan for transformation.

This transformation will not happen overnight. To quote Nexus Pro member Greg Goelz, “it is one step at a time and those waiting for the ‘complete’ solution will be waiting a VERY long time. Incrementally addressing key issues (by priority) while keeping sight of the complete solution is how transformation occurs.”

If the industry were a business, we’d be in what author and entrepreneur Scott Belsky has termed ‘The Messy Middle’—that phase where the best strategy is to “endure the downs (the incremental setbacks and struggles) and optimize the ups (everything and anything that seems to be working)”.

So what are the incremental setbacks and struggles that are getting in our way?

#1: Marketplace confusion

There are many flavors of products that claim to provide some of the benefits and some of the capabilities we’ve outlined in this series. From application providers touting their API, to the infamous SPOG, to everyone claiming to be a platform. It’s a murky situation out there for building owners.

#2: Fragmentation

Solving problems with smart buildings technology today involves too much switching. Between different tools; between different vendors and service providers. Tools aren’t interoperable despite our many standardization efforts.

#3 Procurement

Building owners’ processes for buying things must evolve with the evolution of technology. In the case of the transition to a horizontal architecture, they need to evolve to buying infrastructure layers instead of point solutions.

#4 The construction process

There’s no better time than to build ‘smart from the start’, right? Unfortunately, our processes for building new buildings (and retrofitting old ones) don’t produce smart buildings. Nexus Pro member Tom Balme produced a long list of challenges he’s seen on construction projects recently:

  • the time gap between specs and completion
  • value engineering that removes key technologies
  • technology providers working as 3rd or 4th tier subcontractors
  • technology not completed/commissioned properly at completion
  • the competitive race to the bottom among vendors and contractors

#5 The skills shortage

As I said at the end of 2021, workforce issues are everywhere. Consulting engineers need to upskill to specify the smart building. Building owner organizations need to upskill to manage the smart building. Everyone needs to train outsiders if we’re going to grow the industry rather than pull from the same talent pool.

As we conclude this series, I’d love to hear from you: What “ups” seem to be working in your corner of the smart buildings industry? What can we do better as an industry to navigate this messy middle?

Hit reply or let us know on LinkedIn,

—James Dice, Founder of Nexus Labs

P.S. Did you enjoy this series? Here's the slide deck summarizing Nexus Lore that anyone can use!

P.P.S. Dates have been announced for Cohort 5 of our Foundations course. Mark your calendar if you're interested in joining us!

✖ At the Nexus

Here’s everything worth sharing from Nexus HQ this week:

★ PODCAST: 🎧 #107: Balancing Embodied and Operational Carbon Emissions—Episode 107 is a conversation with Carmel Pratt, Director of New Construction at Bright Power in NYC.

We talked about embodied carbon emissions and how leading construction teams are balancing embodied carbon with operational carbon emissions over the life of a building asset. Then we zoomed in on the operational side and I got Carmel’s take on the challenges ahead in electrifying our buildings.


★ FROM THE ARCHIVE: The Nexus Vendor LandscapeOur continuously evolving database of smart building vendors, including where they play in the stack and what capabilities they provide. 400 vendors and counting...



  • Subject Matter Expert Workshop: Independent Building Automation Consultant at Lifecycle Controls, Bryce Anderson will lead the discussion on BMS trends today and tomorrow.
  • Pro Member Gathering: Smart Buildings Manager, Blake Hyde, will lead the conversation on Cadillac Fairview's Smart Buildings Program.

Join Nexus Pro now to get the invites and access to the recordings.


★ ON LINKEDIN: Smart building champion? We recognize the importance of this role and how we can all play it no matter where we sit in the industry.


★ LISTEN OF THE WEEK: Tesla and the Nature of Disruption—The auto industry has a lot of interesting parallels to our industry. Silos and technological transformation. (Thanks Matt Brown for the share)


👋 That's all for this week. See you next Tuesday!