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Digital twins are now beginning to be recognized for their ability to monitor a building’s performance in real time. Companies' building projects should include a model that is prepared for this new, data-driven approach to sustainability.
A common vision for the post-pandemic future is the connection of the real world
and digital world. Within the built environment, this concept is embodied by the
“digital twin” — a 3D, virtual replica of an operational building that stores and
displays both static and dynamic data. In this way, digital twins fulfill a
myriad array of new value propositions for a building’s owner.
The digital twin originates from building information modeling (BIM),
which is the common technology in today’s design and construction industry. BIM
not only unlocked digital 3D design as the new paradigm, it also enabled rich
data and analytics tools to be applied against the design. Chief among these are
building sustainability and performance, building operations and maintenance,
and occupant health and wellness. Simply put, digital twins are the activation
of these metrics and analytics through BIM in the building operations phase.
Static and dynamic data types are at the heart of a digital twin. Static
data reflects building assets that are fixed in place. Commonly, this data
includes room names, room areas, fixed equipment, furnishings, finishes, etc.
Metadata can also be incorporated into any item to record asset provenance,
warranty information, operation manuals, maintenance schedules, etc.
Dynamic data, on the other hand, supplements static data and records
information from building components that are ever-changing and increasingly
driven by embedded building sensor technologies. Also known as the “Internet of
Things” or IoT, sensors are a
fast-emerging market and are just beginning to demonstrate their potential
impact on buildings. At the simplest level, sensors record things such as room
temperatures, HVAC fan speeds, door entry access, water leaks, indoor and
outdoor air quality, etc. When IoT sensors are coupled with simple algorithms or
even artificial intelligence, they gain the potential to do extraordinary
things. Examples include counting room occupants and monitoring their engagement
with the speaker, inspecting the health of people queuing on an airport jetway,
monitoring environmental health and airborne or waste-stream-borne pathogens,
predicting maintenance needs, and much more.
At its most basic level, a digital twin serves as a live dashboard providing
real-time data on the utilization of building assets. Through a user
interface, building operators can query any object represented in the
digital model. If the object has sensors, the live data is displayed in real
time (historical data can be examined, as well).
Deeper uses include applying data analytics for predictive purposes — such
as maintenance needs, maintenance schedules, pre-ordering of parts, and
elimination of waste in labor and materials. These predictive capabilities
decrease interruption, expense and risk to building operations.
Digital twins are just now beginning to be recognized for their potential to
inform users of a building’s performance in real time. For those companies with
building projects on the horizon, now is the time to expand your deliverables to
include a building model that is prepared for this new, data-driven approach to
Published Feb 1, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.