The Role of Digital Twins in Performance & Building Operations
Digital twins and BIM tech isn’t holographic images of things like we see in futuristic movies. But the advancement and rapid integration of digital twins into building operations and construction projects indicates that there is in fact a place in the market, and demand.
Data analysis, building operations, inventory, asset management, all these areas stand to benefit significantly from digital twins.
So why are they so important? That’s like trying to imagine ourselves using flip phones again; we could do it, but why give up having loads of information at our fingertips?
We’re going to focus on the importance of digital twins in the arena of assets and operations, where thanks to a recent investment in facilities management solution Archibus, Autodesk is now a major player as well. Groups such as Building Smart Canada (BSC) are beginning to act as activists for digital transformation, specifically around the place that digital twins and BIM modelling has in our fight for the environment and green initiatives.
Physical to Digital?
These technologies list assets, facilities and construction materials inventory in a single source of record showing all important data points. From here, managers can draft future projections from schematics and floor plans, or highlight areas that may need investment are all notable functionalities of digital twin and BIM technology.
The advantage to digital modelling like this is abundant. With an abundance of information that is updated in real time accessible at your fingertips, gone are the days of doing rounds of a build site to update spreadsheets and tables. Digital twins and BIM modelling automate and visualize assets and inventory, so you know how much you have, of what, and where.
This information is then stored after the building is complete and can be used to measure performance and maintenance metrics of the building. Property managers can leverage this information to make decisions around sustainability and maintenance that in the long run lower expenses and improve performance.
Enhancing oversight of assets in a building is the name of the game with digital models. New technologies and methods using aerial scanning for building sites and floor plans are being found to have a significant impact on efficiency. From this data integrated into BIM and digital twins, every asset and material used can be accessed for decision makers to gauge performance and efficiencies down the road.
In terms of assets and systems inside of a certain building or across a portfolio, like HVAC or manufacturing processes, they can be linked to an IoT network, and when integrated with digital twins can collect and automate from said data and vastly expand the understanding of a systems capabilities.
Managing building operations
Building operations are the next in line for digital twin integration. Shouldering the work load in areas like facilities and improve larger organizational goals like sustainability presents the opportunity for not only significant upgrades, but cost savings through efficiency upgrades as well.
Facilities management was not the intended use for Digital twins or BIM originally, however digital twin technology is quickly adapting to include facilities management capabilities due to data collection.
Advances in digital twin technology allow for multiple assets and systems to “talk” to one another means that facilities managers can now greatly benefit from the integration of multiple assets into a digital twin. Tracking capabilities of digital twins are perfect for facilities managers that are looking to get deeper insights into their facilities performance, or elevate maintenance practices to ultimately reducing costs.
Moreover, processes and systems that address things like green and environmental initiatives are the focus of many digital twin projects right now. With sustainability becoming a mainstay on priority lists and a business goals.
Environmental kindness and sustainability is on everyone’s mind right now, and with buildings clocking in at more than 30% of emissions, technology that can address this is an asset.
Digital twins provide energy-tracking and emissions data across a building or assets to show how much energy they’re using or their performance in producing energy – in the case of turbines and solar panels.
Understanding not just energy consumption, but also the energy that’s being produced and subsequently managing assets that do is one of the most basic ways to improve emissions and energy use using digital twins.
As the energy sector and environmentally conscious decisions become more complex and evolve with technology, staying on top of tracking and how these tools impact emissions give an organization increased sustainability over the long term.
Building cities and new structures in an age of digital transformation can be met with some pushback. Traditional and “old school” ways of doing things may prevail as a result of preventing any delays due to learning new software.
With digital twins and BIM originally being architecture and design tools, building plans and construction projects are a perfect fit for this kind of tech.
Construction & Digital twins
Digital twins and BIM were designed to alleviate some of the blueprints and checklist planning we see dominate these projects by having a digital model and plans that can be collaborated on by various stakeholders. On or off site, without having to have access to a piece of paper for plans or blueprints, digital twins show everybody what is being done, where, and what it should look like in the final product.
Digital Twin Cities?
The conversation around digital twin technology cannot be had without the vision for fully mapped cities being raised. 3D mapping of entire cities bring with it immense benefits to areas like urban planning, energy use, asset management. Singapore is one country that is years ahead in the use of digital twins for public planning, mapping for data collection and management as well as IT infrastructure
Accurate insight into how a city operates and is built opens up avenues to understanding how to best move forward with projects and integrating technologies into wider areas for urban planning.
It’s whats on the inside that matters, and when designing a full digital twin mapped city, each building is going to be individually mapped as well. Planning out each build and project and having the copy digitally stored for visibility of systems and facilities makes asset management and overall maintenance more accessible and efficient.
IoT & Digital twins in the big city
AI and IoT are evolving along a similar trajectory to digital twins, as their mainstream adaptation and importance to city planning and society as a whole grow.
The dawn of the AI created city is something to think about, as machine learning capabilities take off and computers can process more variables and factors on route to an end goal. Incorporating every possible factor and variable into the planning means that avoiding moments where things such as noise or traffic are not considered is easier.
Efficiency frequently shapes the course of decision making when discussing new technology. Leveraging digital twins and IoT capabilities for more efficient control and data collection for a city opens the door across the board for optimization and improvements to processes as a result. Knowing your energy use with the amount of people in the office could mean a business chooses to downsize office space to be more sustainable.
Digital twins and the improvements they offer in data collection and asset management can’t be found anywhere else. This technology, while still in the early stages of widespread adoption, is going to be found running in the backgrounds of our cities and buildings very soon.
Giving us the ability to measure and track our energy use, asset use, inventories, means that the data here can have real impacts on our businesses processes. Better data, better decisions, better products and outcomes. Digital twins are poised to be the unsung heroes in our tech stack for the future.