Digital Twins In The Construction Industry

Dear TeamCAD website visitors,

We continue to cover interesting topics related to the BIM workflow and Digital Twins. As I announced in my previous article, “What Are The Digital Twins”, in this article, I am going to cover an exciting topic about digital twins in the construction industry.

For the beginning of the text, one interesting question – do you know when and how digital twinning technology was developed? I think the answer will amuse you – the technology of creating a digital twin model, in the format we know today, which is an existing or designed object and an identical copy of the object in digital format, was created in 2002 and was first used in astronomy by NASA for the production or procurement of various components and systems from different suppliers.

Digital twin models have been used primarily to calculate the life cycle of components, systems, and various assemblies and structures after installation, production, and construction. Primarily, digital twins were used to estimate the cost of maintaining different components, systems, circuits, and buildings by making various simulations of phenomena and processes that would occur on existing objects using their digital format replicas. I assume that you have concluded that by accessing a digital replica of an existing building, component or system and simulating the various real-world impacts on them we come to the information on all aspects and causes of the life cycle costs of a particular object, component, or systems in a real environment and in the real-world impacts of different phenomena that interact with an building, component, or system in a much cheaper way.

After having fun with the interesting facts in the introductory part of the article and also learning the meaning of digital twin models, I want to focus on the very topic of this article, which is the purpose of digital twin models in the construction industry.

For a start, we must bear in mind that we have more participants in the building construction, namely the designer, contractor, and investor. Depending on the role in the project process, I am sure that you have in mind that their interests may not be identical when it comes to designing a digital twin.

The interests of the designer and contractor in designing the digital twin in the design process are mainly related to the optimization of their own work. They have no primary interest in passing on the digital twin model of the constructed building to the investor after completing the project and building construction, i.e., something like that represents an additional cost to them.

On the other hand, the investor should be very interested in getting a digital twin model of the finished building for reasons that I will list below.

Digitalni blizanci ilustracija

Unfortunately, it often happens that the investor does not require the making of a digital twin model of the constructed building at the end of the design process. Most often, he does not realize its value and the potential savings in operating costs and life cycle costs of the built facility, which it will bring to the investor, the owner of the facility, the user of the building or facility manager. Also, a common cause for the absence of a digital twin model of a built facility is a certain skepticism with the investor, owner, or user of the facility or facility manager.

Inženjer na gradilištu

The most common questions I hear in discussions about the need to build digital twin models in the construction industry are:

  • Why do I need a digital twin model of a building, if I have a construction stage project?
  • Why do I need a digital twin model of a building, if I have an as built project?
  • What additional value does the digital twin model give me?
  • How to manage the project process so that the investor will eventually get a cheap but quality digital twin model?
  • Does it make sense to create a digital twin model if the building is already built?
  • What to do with a digital model of a digital twin after making and purchasing it?

Šta uraditi sa modelom digitalnog blizanca?

Before giving detailed answers to each of the questions asked by the investor, the owner, the user, or the facility manager, the basic question is asked – who should fund the creation of the digital twin model of the facility? It is not grateful to go into this dilemma from this position and to advise who should finance the digital twin model, as this may depend on the contractual obligations between the investor, the owner, the user, and the facility manager.

However, I am going to be free to suggest to the investor that, in the case of the construction of a brand new building, if it has a capable BIM manager who manages the BIM project process from the start of the project to the completion of the construction, it can have significant financial benefits if he gets the digital twin model at the end of the project. He can accomplish this by “refining” the BIM model of the construction stage project, which he could then hand over or sell to the owner, user, or facility manager. On the other hand, when it comes to creating a digital twin model of an existing building, it seems most logical to me that the costs of making the digital twin model should be taken over by the person who manages the life cycle and pays for the maintenance costs of the building and its equipment, which is usually the owner or user of a facility.

To simplify the terminology and relations between the investor, the owner of the building, the user of the building and the facility manager, below, I will look at the issue of the need to design a digital twin of the building through the prism of the user of the facility, since the user is the one who will pay the costs of operating the facility, it’s life cycle costs and the equipment in it, and the one should be most interested in the design and procurement of a digital twin model of the facility.

Troškovi operativnog korišćenja objekta i životnog ciklusa

Why Do I Need A Digital Twin Model Of A Building, If I Have A Construction Stage Project?

By definition, the construction stage project is a detailed design of the main design with all the necessary details defined for the project to be constructed. The problem with the construction stage project is that, in practice, the built facility is almost always significantly different from the solution given in the construction stage project for various justified or unjustified reasons, which the designer and contractor did not consider when designing the construction stage project.

Therefore, we can conclude that a construction stage project cannot give an entirely exact digital or paper 2D replica of the completed state of a newly constructed building.

When considering building structures that were built before the advent of digital twin model technology, this puts the facility user in a worse position, since from the 2D drawings on the paper sheets he is not able to grasp every detail of the building that he uses or in an orderly fashion track the changes, maintenance and life cycle costs of each element in the building. Also, it is almost impossible to imagine that the contractor was so conscientious during construction that everything, even the slightest deviation from the construction stage project, was documented by an additional graphic revision.

Why Do I Need A Digital Twin Model Of A Building, If I Have An As Built Project?

To better address this issue, it is best to look at the very definition of an as built project.
“The as built project is being made to obtain the use permit, use, and maintenance of the facility.
The as built project of a completed facility is a set of mutually synced projects showing all the details of the constructed facility necessary to determine its suitability for use.

https://www.paragraf.rs/propisi/pravilnik-o-sadrzini-nacinu-i-postupku-izrade-i-nacinu-vrsenja-kontrole-tehnicke-dokumentacije-prema-klasi-i-nameni-objekata.html

The as built project can be made for parts of the building which, in the opinion of the technical inspection committee, or following the technical documentation, represent the technical and technological unit and can be used as such independently, and for which the suitability for use is determined in accordance with the rulebook governing the technical inspection of facilities and for which a special use permit is issued. ” (definition is taken from the site paragraf.rs from the Rulebook On The Content, Manner, and Procedure Of Preparation And Method Of Control Of Technical Documentation According To The Class And Purpose Of The Facility – Official Gazette RS number73/2019.

From the very definition, we can see that the as built project, whether in digital or paper format, somewhat considers the facility maintenance, but does not provide clear guidance on how to document the maintenance of the facility, how to assess the monthly, quarterly, annual life cycle costs of the facility and installed equipment. From a law point of view, it’s enough to do an as built project that would document all deviations of the building from the construction stage project, which completely ignores the process of the complete life cycle of the building and the installed equipment.

What may be good about the overall story of an as built project is that in newly designed and constructed buildings and equipment, if the BIM workflow is implemented appropriately in all project stages, the BIM as built model can be taken as a starting model for development of a digital twin model of the building and the installed equipment. In simpler terms, adding attributes relevant to monitoring the operating life cycle cost of a facility to the BIM as built model is the most financially viable way to obtain a digital twin model of the construction facility and the equipment built into it. What precisely this means, I will explain in answer to the next question.

Najpovoljniji način za izradu modela digitalnog blizanca

What Additional Value Does The Digital Twin Model Give Me?

If we are talking about a BIM project, the simplest explanation for the difference between a BIM as built model and a digital twin model is that the BIM as built model provides static information about a built object, such as its geometry, equipment capacity, properties of used materials and equipment, etc. In contrast, the digital twin model contains dynamic data such as maintenance costs and the life cycle of all elements of a building and equipment installed, as well as elements that simulate various “real-world” impacts on them. The digital twin of a building and its built-in equipment enables the cost anticipation of each element during its life cycle. These costs can be predicted on a monthly, quarterly, yearly, or multi-year basis, which can provide valuable information to the investor or user of the facility to optimize and more effectively manage its own finance.

Zgrada digitalni blizanac

How To Manage The Project Process So That The Investor Will Eventually Get A Cheap But Quality Digital Twin Model?

Assuming we are talking about a BIM project, the most straightforward answer to the asked question is that the investor, during the preparation of all project phases, has in his team an experienced BIM manager (employed by the investor or hired as a BIM consultant), who will manage the BIM requirements in the interest of the investor during all stages of the BIM workflow. The starting document, which should also form part of the contract between the designer and the contractor with the investor, is called the “BIM Execution Plan”, a BIM project execution plan, which manages the delivery of the BIM project at different stages of the project. This document, usually drafted by an investor, defines what BIM models need to contain at different stages of the BIM project process, protocols for names of varying BIM elements in discipline models to optimize and automate the BIM project process (naming convention), collision definitions for each of the stages of the BIM project process, the platform on which the BIM combined model will operate, the “level of detail” (LOD) of the discipline elements throughout all stages of the BIM project process and many other things.

I think it should be reiterated here that the process itself between the BIM as built model and the facility digital twin model should be an integral part of the BIM Execution Plan, since it is more than evident that something is in the investor’s interest.

BIM Execution Plan

I am going to write about the BIM Execution Plan in detail in one of the following articles. The previous brief description of what the BIM Execution Plan should contain, I just wanted to give an idea of why the investor needed it. It seems logical that the ultimate goal of the investor should be to create a digital twin to use after the construction. An experienced BIM manager or BIM consultant can assist him greatly by developing a BIM Execution Plan and managing the complete BIM workflow.

Does It Make Sense To Create A Digital Twin Model If The Building Is Already Built?

I think there is much need for a digital twin model for an already built facility, and there are many reasons for this. The first and foremost reason is that as time goes on, every building and installation requires more money for maintenance, more frequent failures in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing installations. Also, every change in the building regulations involves specific works, and there are more of them as the building structure or equipment in it is older. With this in mind, it is almost impossible to see all the changes that have taken place over the years of using the building, and every user of the building is aware that there will be many more changes, alterations, replacements, and upgrades in the future.

The logical conclusion is that in order to consider the cost of maintaining a building, it is almost necessary to create a digital twin model of an existing building. Practically, there are no substantial differences in explaining why a digital twin model of an existing building is needed compared to the building being designed. In both cases, the essence of the digital twin model is to enable the facility user to view the life cycle costs of the facility and the installed equipment.

The only difference is that as time goes on, the cost of maintaining older buildings is increasing, so the digital twin model is very precious in assessing the cost-effectiveness of further investment in existing facilities and equipment built into it.

Da li ima smisla izgraditi model digitalnog blizanca?

What To Do With A Digital Model Of A Digital Twin After Making And Purchasing It?

The answer to the last question I am going to discuss in this article should be, at the same time, a recapitulation of everything we have learned about the need for digital twinning in the construction industry.

First and foremost, the purpose of developing a digital twin model in the construction industry is to obtain, in a digital format, and in a much cheaper way, a user of a facility about all aspects of the life cycle cost of a particular building, component or system in a real environment and the real effects of different phenomena that interact with a building, component, or system.

When a facility user purchases a digital twin model of a facility and built-in equipment, it would be best to do monthly, quarterly, annual, and multi-year cross-sections of building and equipment maintenance costs so that tenant can manage finances in the best possible way.

Any changes to the building itself or the equipment built into it must be updated in the digital twin model as well since future changes cannot be properly tracked nor can the costs of future maintenance work be monitored unless the digital twin model is a perfect digital copy of the building current state and the equipment built into it.

Upravljanje modelom digitalnog blizanca

And at the very end of the article, I will make a personal comment and my more free-standing view of the digital twin model in the construction industry. The digital twin model of a building and equipment built into it is essentially a BIM as built model, with added functionality that can be used for tracking the life cycle cost of the building and the equipment built into it. In order to maintain the status of a digital twin model of a facility, it is necessary that it is continuously updated and that all changes from the real – physical world – are transferred to the digital world, i.e., into the digital twin model of the existing building and the equipment built into it.

I would also like to conclude this article on digital twins in the construction industry and my view of how they can help the construction industry through cost optimization and better functionality, both for under construction facilities and already built facilities.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my next article, “Data Management In The Digital Twin”, in which, through the examples, I will try to show you the need to think for yourself about the need to design a digital twin of your building.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to know more about the topic I covered in “Digital Twins In The Construction Industry”, 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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