The Role of Digital Twins in Performance & Building Operations
This 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 is like trying to imagine ourselves using flip phones again; we could do it, but why would we give up having all this 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. 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?
All your assets, facilities and inventory, in a single source of record that shows all important data points as they evolve over time. That’s what you’re looking at in terms of functionality for digital twins. Drafting future projections, evaluations of where you’re at right now, areas that may need investment, and showing shareholders a project is coming along as promised.
The advantage to digital modelling like this is abundant, information at your fingertips that evolves over time with your assets. Gone are the days of people doing constant rounds of a 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.
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. Time reduction and overall costs as a result were able to be reduced without any changes in quality or data collection for the models.
In terms of assets and systems inside a building like HVAC or manufacturing processes that could also be linked to an IoT network, digital twins can collect data on these and vastly expand the understanding of a systems capabilities. Combine this with inventory control and you’re going to have access to data from start to finish on everything that goes on in an outlined area of the business.
This can even be expanded to space and real estate, where sensors can be integrated to a floor plan to show real-time modelling. Here, floor plan data can be used by management to gauge potential space use decisions to improve the office.
The correlation and benefits for inventory management through digital modelling give you a model using projected and past data on inventory use, allowing you to project inventory requirements in a manufacturing environment.
On-site management for construction and waste management are one unlikely benefactor from this technology. Looking to eliminate long walk-throughs of a site and replace them with constantly evolving digital models to avoid waste and throwaway materials. Making use of drones and aerial scanning could take some of the guesswork out of larger design and build projects like stadiums and high-rises.
Managing building operations
Now once construction is done, building operations are the next in line for digital twin integration to shoulder some of the work load in areas like facilities and improve larger organizational goals like sustainability.
Facilities management being used with BIM was not an intentional pairing, however digital twin technology is adapting to include facilities management capabilities as well as traditional design and plotting.
Advances in digital twin technology allowing for multiple assets and digital systems to talk to one another means that facilities managers can now greatly benefit from the integration of multiple assets into a digital twin. The tracking capabilities of digital twins are perfect for facilities managers looking to get a full look at their facilities performance, elevating maintenance practices and ultimately reducing costs for a business.
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 staple objective and business goal across several industries,
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
Construction sites are littered with plans. Blueprints and checklists and other things that have the end product in mind.
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.
Specificity is key in building projects and digital twins give teams a digital copy of exactly what needs to be done. This attention to detail in construction along with new systems and facilities like IoT networks can lead to the “cities of the future” that have been prophesized for decades now.
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.
When you begin to work IoT into a building operations stack, and the interconnected sensors that measure facilities and day to day operations throughout a building, the big picture starts to emerge. Occupancy and people in the office combined with tracking of energy use that day is going to give you a great idea of how your energy and emissions are impacted by the amount of people returning to the office.
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.