23 May 2018

A Digital Twin for buildings? A clear Yes!

These days people in all industries are faced with new impact-words mainly coming from the IT sector. Sometimes they are self-explanatory, but most of them are used in a context inexplicable to third parties. If we have no idea it will be done somewhere “in the cloud”. A new expression is now used in the world of digitalization: digital twins. What’s behind it and what is its potential?

A digital twin is the digital representation of a physical object. It includes the characteristics of the physical object and the related data. The hype around digital twins is growing because better insights of the object can be gained enabling a more informed decision making process. The data technology behind this is not new. The precursor – known as mirrored data system – was e.g. used by the NASA to develop rescue scenarios for the Apollo 13 mission. It is obvious that the mission control center only had the chance of testing and simulating procedures in the virtual data model. What’s used in complex missions, critical missions and machines will not always be justified in other use cases. Will the additional effort pay off in e.g. buildings? Here my answer is a clear YES!

In the design phase of buildings different variants can be checked. Optimization can take place in the virtual model. The dependencies of changes and adjustments can be determined. This is much easier and cheaper in the virtual model. Once it is checked and decided we can start with the physical transformation. Less effort and disruptions are the result. Digital twins add value to the traditional analytical approaches by improving situational awareness, and enabling better responses to changing conditions in all phases of a building during its lifecycle – not just for the design phase. The twins will lower operational expenses by building up transparency leading to a better building performance.

We will save money and time

The building industry is one of the last industries starting the physical production process before the design is finalized. In former times this was a viable way, because the buildings were not as complex as today. Growing expectations about the buildings’ performance are pushing the industry to adapt new methods. As a part of the BIM-Story (Building Information Management) digital twins are a major milestone on the way to digitalization of the building industry. On all fronts we will save money and time with better solutions. The transformation phase is quite complicated because this industry is still not in a mode of change today.

Many proof points

Slowly, but surely, we are proceeding on this path of digitalization, following the example of other industries. Digitial twins are obviously not a dream – the benefit was proven in many BIM-pilot-projects worldwide.

‘Digital twin’ is not just a new, worthless boost word, it marks a real opportunity for the building industry.


BIM and urban planning

Building Information Modeling: Faster, better, cheaper?

Related Tags