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Raising Digital Twins – Building from Concept to Delivery


Essay by Diana Bjornskov

The digital twin technology concept has been around since 2002 and was first used in the fields of astronautics and aerospace, and manufacturing and product lifecycle management. It was used by NASA for the moon exploration mission Apollo 13 and Mars Rover Curiosity.

“Digital Twins” is a concept, composed of 3D simulation, IOT, 4G/5G, big data, blockchain, edge computing, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. Even if we don’t (yet) understand every one of the acronyms and industry idioms, digital twins are here to stay in the building industry – because even though the components sound complicated, the concept saves time, money and effort.

According to Entrepreneur author Vijay Raghunathan, “Digital Twins not only help understand what may happen, but crucially what is happening (how the design is behaving in the real world) … Digital Twins are used for the entire design-execute-change-decommission lifecycle.”

Digital Twin tools are predicted to become invaluable for everyone in the building industry, from owners to designers, builders, managers, operators, and – yes – commissioning providers. The real-time capabilities of gathering and integrating related information from a variety of sources, including building modeling software, wired, wireless and wearable technologies, building automation systems, equipment sensors, and others, makes for incremental analytics from predesign through the building’s entire life. Further, the potential to retain and sync historical information with performance, detect and diagnose problems, compare to prior performance, and predict future (good and poor) performance of buildings and their systems can be an owner’s financial and decision-making dream come true.

Digital twins provide an existing building project team with access to as-built and as-designed models, which are constantly synced in real-time. This allows companies to continuously monitor progress and what-if scenarios against a 4D (computerized design + schedule) or 5D (4D + budget tracking and cost analysis) building information model (BIM), according to Intellectsoft and others in the field.

However, because Digital Twins are not just an off-the-shelf tool, up-front cost for development, implementation and training can be daunting. As building costs continue to rise and the skilled construction labor force appears to shrink, tools that help control cost, save time and minimize change orders are important. Moreover, the Digital Twins’ ability to provide actionable ongoing performance information over a building’s life – despite renovation, remodeling or changes in use – will contribute to better buildings and more owner-manager-occupant satisfaction.

Are you or your associates using Digital Twin technology? We’d like to hear more about your experiences! Contact info@bcxa.org.

  1. Roman SPD
    Reply

    Thank you for this article, its is very informative. It’s fascinating to me how a technology that was used by NASA for the moon exploration transcends into the modern building industry. I think it is awesome that builders now can use as-built and as-designed models in real-time to get instant feedback on what they are doing. I had written articles on the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Blockchain in the past, so your topic is very close to me. It’s cool to learn something new!

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