Products & Solutions
February 7, 2023

Digital Twin Buildings: The Future of Smart Construction

Want to stay ahead of your competition? A digital twin building can streamline your processes such as design, planning, scheduling and collaboration. With the help of this cutting-edge technology, you can better visualize and plan your construction projects, identify potential issues before they happen, and optimize your workflows for maximum efficiency.

Here’s an approachable guide to digital twin technology. We’ll provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about how to put digital twins to use in your own projects. Let’s get started.

What Is a Digital Twin Building?

A digital twin in real estate can be thought of as a mirror image of a physical building. Just as a mirror reflects the appearance of a person or object, a digital twin is a live, up-to-date version of a structure. That is to say, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical space or a physical process that informs your business. To achieve that, data is sourced from IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and building information modeling (BIM).

This digital representation can be used for a variety of purposes such as design and planning, construction and maintenance, and even operation and optimization of an asset. It allows for virtual testing and simulation, reducing the need for physical models and enabling more efficient and cost-effective decision making. Additionally, it can be used to monitor the building's performance in real-time, facilitating proactive maintenance and increasing overall asset lifecycle.

What’s the Difference Between a Digital Twin Building and a Simulation?

Have you ever built a house of cards? The process of creating it is a simulation, right? You're testing different options and variables, and making adjustments until you have a stable structure. But what if that house of cards was a smart building, with real systems and real people living in it? That's where a digital twin comes in.

A digital twin building is the exact replica of an actual structure. With the help of artificial intelligence, it's created using real-time data from IoT sensors, cameras, and other sources, and it allows you to monitor building performance in real-time. You can also predict when maintenance is needed and test out various scenarios to see how they would play out in the real world.

A simulation, on the other hand, focuses on one specific process instead of the whole building environment. It's typically used in the design phase and is a more static model that you manually update.

A digital twin also allows you to monitor the temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions in real-time, like a thermostat in the house. With a simulation, you can test out different HVAC systems and see which one would be the most energy-efficient. Likewise, you could see how the building would perform in varying weather conditions.

Both digital twins and simulations are powerful tools that can help you make better decisions, improve efficiency, and stay ahead of the competition. By using both, you can have a complete understanding of the built environment and can simulate different scenarios to optimize the building performance.

How Is a Digital Twin Created?

Two construction workers look at digital twin buildings

Creating a digital twin building typically involves five steps.

1. Data Collection

This step involves collecting data from various sources such as architectural drawings, 3D models, IoT devices, and BIM. The data collection phase is the foundation of a digital twin. 

2. Data Integration

Then, the data is integrated and consolidated into a single model. This process involves: 

3. Modeling

After the building data has been compiled, it’s used to create a digital model of a structure using 3D modeling software. This includes a structure’s ecosystem such as HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. As a result, you get an intimate understanding of an asset's performance and the ability to simulate building operations.

The digital twin building model also includes information about the building's materials and finishes, such as flooring, wall coverings, and roofing. These details are essential because they enable building owners to evaluate a facility’s thermal performance and energy consumption. Once the model is complete, it’s reviewed and validated to ensure that it’s accurate and consistent with the building's design and layout.

4. Simulation and Analysis

After creating a digital model of a building, you can now simulate various scenarios that affect the asset's performance such as load, weather conditions, and occupancy. Additionally, it can also be used to analyze the building's energy consumption and identify opportunities for improving efficiency. Similarly, safety and risk analysis can be performed using the digital twin building model to simulate emergency scenarios. This way, you identify potential risks and can take proactive measures to mitigate them.

5. Monitoring and Management

Once the digital twin building has been created, it can be used to monitor a facility's performance in the physical world in real-time. This includes monitoring the building's systems, energy consumption, and occupancy. Again, by analyzing a building's capability over time, you can predict when maintenance is needed and schedule it in advance. Lastly, the digital twin can be used as an asset management tool, allowing you to track the structure's components, systems, and equipment throughout its lifecycle.

Applications for Digital Twins in the Building Lifecycle

There are several different types of digital twins, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Design Digital Twin 

A design digital twin lets you try on different design options, like a virtual fitting room, before the construction even starts. Architects, engineers, and other professionals can use it during the design phase to tweak and perfect their plans without lifting a hammer.

Construction Digital Twin

A construction digital twin is usually used during the construction phase of a project. It helps with everything from identifying potential problems to optimizing resources to ensuring everything runs smoothly. It's like having a virtual construction foreman on your team, helping you plan and visualize every step of the building process.

Operational Digital Twin

Imagine having a virtual model of your newly built facility at your fingertips. With operational digital twin technology, you can easily keep tabs on the performance of your building and pinpoint exactly where maintenance and upgrades are needed.

Asset Digital Twin

This type of digital twin gives you complete control of every piece of machinery in your facility. In other words, you can monitor the performance of each asset, predict when maintenance is necessary, and optimize usage for maximum efficiency. The result? No more guesswork, no more downtime. Just smooth operation and increased productivity.

6 Key Features to Look for in a Digital Twin Building Solution

Digital twin buildings: Two construction workers talking in front of homes being built

Here's what you need to keep in mind to ensure a digital twin solution meets your specific needs:

1. Data Integration

A digital twin solution should seamlessly integrate data from multiple sources like BIMs, GIS, and sensors. This way, you'll have an accurate and up-to-date virtual replica of your physical assets. You’ll be able to make informed decisions with confidence, knowing you have all the information you need at your disposal.

2. 3D Modeling

Aim for a product with advanced 3D modeling capabilities so that you’re able to create detailed, realistic representations of physical assets. This can be used for both design and simulation purposes, helping you to identify potential issues and make design adjustments before construction begins.

3. Real-Time Monitoring and Analytics

Seek a solution with the ability to track the performance of your assets in real-time, which helps you identify any issues before they become a problem. This feature eliminates guesswork and improves the sustainability and safety of your construction and maintenance operations.

4. Collaboration and Communication

Strive for a digital twin product that allows different stakeholders to access the same information and make decisions based on accurate and up-to-date data. This eliminates confusion, delays, miscommunication in your project. 

5. Scalability and Flexibility

A good solution allows you to add or remove features as needed and adjust the solution to fit the specific needs of your project.

6. Predictive Maintenance

A predictive maintenance system has the power to predict and prevent potential issues before they happen. By scheduling maintenance accordingly, you’ll reduce downtime and prolong the lifecycle of your assets.

Navigate the Construction Journey With a Digital Twin

Picture yourself navigating the rough seas of construction with a reliable mapping technology by your side. Just like a ship's navigation system guides the vessel to its destination, a digital twin oversees the construction process and supports a successful outcome. 

GPS provides the ship's captain with real-time information about the ship's course. Just as the digital twin provides you with live updates about your project. You navigate the construction process with ease, avoid potential obstacles and reach your destination with confidence.

And the best part?

You can now unlock the full potential of your construction projects with the power of digital twins using Avvir. You can take your BIM capabilities to new heights and streamline your construction workflows like never before. Check out our BIM-focused reality analysis platform to reduce costly rework and prevent critical path delays on your next project.

Men showing construction tool to group
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