Data Management In The Digital Twin Of The Building

Dear TeamCAD website visitors,

We continue to cover interesting topics related to the BIM workflow. As I announced in my previous article, “Digital Twins In The Construction Industry”, in this article, I am going to cover an exciting topic about data management in digital twins.

In the previous two articles, “What are digital twins” and “Digital twins in the construction industry“, I tried to explain in the best possible way what digital twins are in a broad sense, what is their potential, in what areas they can be used and make significant savings and finally – what digital twin represents and what its value is, whether it is about building project or the already constructed building. In this article, I have the intention to complete the story of digital twins and to give you an idea of how to manage data after the creation of a building digital twin in the best way.

Let’s start with the assumption that the investor, owner, user of the facility, and / or facility manager is interested in creating a digital twin model of the building he is using, as well as interested in monitoring, forecasting and managing the facility’s maintenance and life cycle costs. For such a thing he needs:

  • The contract and the BIM Execution Plan, which clearly defines the obligations of the investor and the legal entity that will create and maintain the digital twin model. I am going to give more details on this topic below;
  • BIM as built model, which reflects a perfect, as built copy of the constructed building and the equipment built into it (digital twin model);
  • A digital twin model containing parameters valuable for monitoring the life cycle of a building and the equipment built into it;
  • Permanent maintenance of the geometry and parameters of the digital twin model after each intervention on the building and the equipment built into it;
  • Generation and labeling of elements QR codes in a building or part of equipment over which an intervention is performed and labeling with an identical QR code of an identical element in a digital twin model to coordinate real-world building data and its digital twin model in the digital world.

The Building’s Digital Twin Creating and Maintenance Contract and BIM Execution Plan

The primary role of the building’s digital twin creating and maintenance contract is to clearly define the rights and obligations of the building user on the one hand and the company that will be engaged in the creation and maintenance of the digital twin on the other. It turned out very useful to include in the creating and maintenance contract a company that will provide maintenance services for the constructed facility and the equipment built into it, i.e., facility manager. This greatly minimizes the possibility of communication problems on the relation building user – facility manager – maintaining the digital twin of the building.

Namely, in contracts that clearly define the rights and obligations between the interested legal entities engaged in the maintenance of the existing building, it is crucial to define clearly and unambiguously the procedures from the appearance of the need for intervention on the building to noting it in the digital twin model, i.e., to update it.

Digital Twins Creation and Maintenance Contract

BIM Execution Plan, in addition to the building’s digital twin creating and maintenance contract, represents a document which has the power of the contract and it is written in the form of contract addition where it is defined:

  • Methodology for creating building digital twin model;
  • Level of Detail (LOD) i.e., the level of detail of the geometry of each type of graphic element within the digital twin model;
  • Elements of the building and equipment that will be subject to processing in the digital building twin model database;
  • The parameters in the digital twin model that will be assigned to the graphic elements of the model to track them in terms of maintenance costs and the life cycle of the facility and the equipment built into it;
  • The manner of issuing orders and labeling for intervention on the constructed facility;
  • A way to update the digital twin and the data itself in the building database after the intervention;
  • Documenting all changes made to the building and the equipment built into it in the digital twin model, not only by changing the geometry of the digital twin model, but also establishing a link between the element in the digital twin model that was the subject of the intervention and the attachments, invoice scans, textual description of the work and how to make changes, as well as other relevant documentation related to that element in the digital twin model.

BIM Execution Plan

In the end, it is essential to note in the contract that it is desirable to define the costs of maintaining a digital twin model. In most cases, the item in the maintenance contract involves paying by the facility user after an intervention order is issued, which is a less favorable option for the user. The second most common option is the annual subscription of the facility user to a company that is contractually obliged to update the model and document any changes to the digital twin model after each order and intervention.

Creating Of The Digital Twin Of The Building

To understand how digital twin data of the building is managed, I must indicate to you that the methodology for generating data is not the same for the digital twin that is the subject of the project and the digital twin that is generated based on data from the as built project if the owner or user of the building has it. Even more complicated is the situation where the owner or user of the building does not own the as built project, so before creating a digital twin, it is necessary to perform a building observation, which requires a lot of manual and not so intellectual work. Finally, there is the possibility of laser scanning of an existing object. Still, the purpose of the generated point-cloud 3D model of a digital twin of an existing building is highly questionable from a BIM point of view.

Digital Twin Model illustration

Let’s consider these four cases:

  • The digital twin model generated during the BIM workflow is essentially a model generated after the building construction and can be considered as an as built project. As I mentioned in the previous article, if the investor adequately hired his BIM manager, who constantly checked the coordination of the constructed building with the digital as built model, it can be said that with certain, not so large additional works on the digital as built model, the investor can easily have the digital twin model;
  • Digital twin model generated from the as built project using 2D drawings and additional project documentation is a far more complicated case since it requires a lot of BIM modeling, assigning adequate parameters to the elements in the digital twin and linking those parameters to a database that documents all future repairs and works on the facility. I must mention that the responsibility for the validity of the drawings, as well as possible disagreements between the drawings of the as built project and the real constructed building, is the responsibility of the facility’s owner or user and that he is obliged to document all differences to the company engaged in the development of a digital twin model of that facility. To put it simply, any discrepancy between the current state of the facility concerning the as built project is the sole responsibility of the facility’s owner or user. Unless the user of the facility has documented the difference between the constructed facility and the as built project, the digital twin model cannot be described as a mistake by the company engaged in the digital twin creation.
  • The digital twin model generated from the observation of the constructed building involves the engagement of a company or individuals who will record the complete facility and document that recording in a format acceptable to the company engaged in the creation of the digital twin model of the constructed building. The process itself places much responsibility on the company or individuals hired for observation of an as built facility. It should be borne in mind that such a scenario can only be imagined in buildings that were built in the distant past. Therefore, the propensity to malfunction and repairs is significantly higher than the recently constructed facilities whose owners or users own the as built project.
  • The digital twin model generated from laser scanning is a highly debatable digital twin model format. In my opinion, it cannot be considered an adequate model of a facility’s digital twin. It provides a visually acceptable model, where its elements can get some attributes through their labeling. The problem with the digital twin models thus generated is that the elements in that model are not intelligent and do not know whether they are a column, wall, or diffuser, so their systematization and data structuring in such models is challenging to achieve and very unreliable.

Issue an order for intervention using the digital twin model on the BIM 360 cloud platform

Does it seem too futuristic for you, as the facility’s owner or user, to order the maintenance technician of your facility to go to a specific location of your facility, identify the element on which to intervene, and then follow the instructions given to you by voice or text message to his smartphone, all from a digital twin model found on the BIM 360 cloud platform?

BIM 360 Cloud platform

This technology is possible and easily applicable. What is particularly fascinating is that when generating a ticket for a particular intervention, a QR Code or Unique ID number is automatically generated and assigned on the one hand to the element of the facility over which was intervened and, on the other, to an identical element in the digital twin model stored in the BIM 360. A once generated QR Code or Unique ID assigned to a specific element in a facility and an identical element in the facility’s digital twin model allows you to track all interventions and history of all interventions on one or more elements in the facility and the facility’s digital twin model.

BIM 360 and Digital Twin

More description of digital twin model maintenance in the BIM 360 cloud service, you can find on this link:

Issuing a Ticket Using the Digital Twin Model in BIM 360 and Database Related to the Digital Twin Model

If you have read the text in the previous subtitle and watched the BIM 360 Ops video, I believe you are fascinated with how easily any change made to a real-world facility and a digital twin model in the digital world can be documented. In a very similar way, it is possible to create a ticket and monitor its implementation using databases and specific procedures. What is very convenient about databases is that it is possible to look at all interventions that have happened in the past, but also to write tickets that will be executed in the future based on the life cycle data of a a particular element in an existing facility and a digital twin model of an existing facility. Tracking incoming and previous costs with the help of a database, whether it is regular work, renovations, repairs, upgrades, or adaptation of a building to new regulations, allows the facility user the opportunity to view all the life cycle costs of the building. Doing so will significantly enable him to optimize his finances and provide significant savings.

BIM 360

Which data should the digital twin model contain?

The most straightforward answer to this question is – the building’s digital twin model should contain all of the data that is valuable to the facility user and the facility manager for the effective maintenance of the constructed facility and the equipment built into it. Practically, there are no restrictions on the parameters of the digital twin model, so it can be said that the user, the facility manager and the company in charge of creating and maintaining the digital twin model in the BIM Execution Plan define all the parameters that are valuable primarily to the facility user.

However, it proved to be that the data that are most often the default parameters in the digital twin model are related to the life cycle costs of certain elements of the facility and equipment, different parameters that can provide a quick response regarding the cost of any changes to the facility in terms of upgrading, adaptation or change of purpose of the facility or part thereof and finally, the parameters of the elements that will signal incoming regular construction work on the maintenance of the facility and the regular replacement of equipment or parts of equipment by the specifications of their manufacturers.

It should be added that it is possible to install different sensors in a facility, which continuously monitor and collect data during the life cycle and the facility exploitation, as well as the equipment built into it, but this requires the participation of machine learning and Internet of Things, for valid data processing, which is a vast topic and I am going to explain that workflow in one of the following articles.

Data That The Digital Twin Can Contain

At the very end, I would like to make a few observations and conclusions about digital twin technologies. The capabilities of modern technologies are increasing, and therefore the benefits that digital tools provide us with data processing, whether generated by human labor, automation tools or machine learning, are increasingly apparent. Essentially, any real-world flaws can be remedied in digital models, including the digital twin model of a building. The advantage of a digital model of a building is that its elements can be assigned much more readily available data than the elements of the building in the real world.

It should be borne in mind that the use of digital maintenance technologies for an existing facility, in addition to better communication between the facility manager and facility users, also improves communication and documentation within the facility management team. The result is transparency in the maintenance work of the constructed facility, as well as significant savings by reducing the number of participants in the process of issuing a ticket, during the intervention itself, and finally documenting the ticket execution for any intervention at the existing facility.

Project Transparency

I hope you found the articles about digital twins interesting (“What Are The Digital Twins?” and “Digital Twins In The Construction Industry“). With this article, I would also conclude a series of articles on digital twin technology and announce the following text “What Is BEP And What Should It Contain”.

I would also like to announce a webinar on digital twin technology, which you will be notified in a timely manner.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to know more about the topic I covered in “Data Management In The Digital Twin Of The Building”, please contact TeamCAD, who will be happy to provide you with additional information.

Also, if you need any help in designing the process of how to get a digital twin model, or you need to create a digital twin model yourself, TeamCAD will be happy to support you.

Until next time,
Predrag Jovanović

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