How a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy can pave the way for intelligent buildings

06 December 2023
How a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy can pave the way for intelligent buildings

In the rapidly evolving landscape of smart buildings, where advancements in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are reshaping our interaction with physical spaces, the concept of the Digital Twin stands out as a pivotal innovation. A digital twin serves as a dynamic, digital replica of a physical asset, system, or process, facilitating insights and decision-making that are grounded in the virtual reflection of the real world. But to fully unlock its potential, especially for buildings at the design stage or those lacking the right infrastructure, you need a well-thought-out Digital Twin Readiness Strategy. This strategy refers to the preparation and planning required to effectively implement a digital twin platform for a facility or group of facilities. It is a comprehensive plan that assesses and prepares the existing infrastructure of a building, or the planned infrastructure of new constructions, to seamlessly integrate with digital twin technology.

In this article, we’ll delve into what this strategy entails and why it’s essential for your future-proofing efforts.

What is a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy?

Before we jump into the “why” and “how” of a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy (DTRS), let’s establish what it is and why it matters.

Imagine building a house without a solid foundation. It might look good initially, but over time, it’s bound to crumble. Similarly, for digital twins, the DTRS is not just about setting the initial stage; it’s about ensuring that the foundational infrastructure for your digital twin platform is robust and capable. It goes beyond mere preparation – it actively establishes the necessary ‘enabling’ infrastructure, which streamlines and simplifies the deployment process. This proactive approach anticipates potential challenges and addresses them beforehand, facilitating a smoother and more efficient implementation of the digital twin platform.

Think of it as the prelude to the digital twin solution. It’s the preparation phase that ensures everything is in place for a smooth implementation. You wouldn’t want to start a performance without a rehearsal, right? Similarly, a DTRS prepares you for the real show. It ensures you get the most out of your digital twin investment. It helps you extract valuable insights, optimize operations, and make data-driven decisions that can revolutionize your building management.

Why is a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy needed?

Understanding the necessity of a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy requires recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities presented by both existing and new buildings:

For an existing building, the transition to a digital twin is not a mere upgrade—it’s a strategic evolution. A Digital Twin Readiness Strategy is indispensable as it encompasses a thorough assessment of the building’s current state. This evaluation is critical to ascertain the compatibility and readiness of the built environment for the adoption of a digital twin platform. The strategy meticulously examines the infrastructure to determine the extent to which digital twin functionalities can be integrated and identifies the scope for potential operational improvements and retrofits. It’s a detailed process that seeks to align the building’s current capabilities with futuristic digital twin solutions, ensuring a smooth transition that brings about enhanced efficiency and performance.

When it comes to new constructions, a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy is equally vital. The strategy is instrumental in laying the foundation for the seamless integration of digital twin technologies right from the design phase. It involves the development of a comprehensive plan that clearly outlines the building owner or manager’s objectives. This includes bringing together various stakeholders—architects, engineers, IT specialists, and end-users—early in the process to collaboratively shape the final solution. This collaborative approach ensures that the digital twin aligns with the building’s intended function and the stakeholders’ expectations, establishing a foundation for the building’s long-term relevance and efficiency. The strategy is also aimed at extracting the maximum value from the digital twin by tailoring the building’s design to accommodate the specific use cases that the digital twin will support. A pertinent example is aligning the building services zoning, particularly HVAC distribution & zoning and lighting circuits & controls, with the intended function of each space. This alignment is crucial for maximizing energy savings through occupancy-driven adaptive controls. By doing so, the DTRS strategy ensures that the infrastructure is not just digital twin compatible but also optimized to take full advantage of the digital twin’s capabilities from the outset. The readiness strategy in this context is about foresight and planning—the meticulous orchestration of design elements to accommodate advanced technologies, thereby guaranteeing the building’s relevance and efficacy in the digital future.

When is a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy required?

When it comes to implementing a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy (DTRS), timing is crucial. To fully leverage the benefits of a digital twin, it’s advisable to start early, particularly during the design phase of new buildings. This strategic approach ensures the establishment of a robust foundation essential for supporting the comprehensive architecture of the system. In the context of digital twins, a DTRS at the design stage sets the stage for the digital twin’s success.

For existing structures, the period before the deployment of a digital twin platform is the opportune moment to adopt a Digital Twin . This strategic evaluation is comparable to conducting a thorough audit of a building’s capabilities, determining feasible modules and use cases based on current infrastructure and data. It also serves to uncover data gaps, and addressing these can unlock further possibilities for use cases and modules, thus enhancing the building’s digital twin capabilities with more actionable insights and opportunities.

This approach ensures that you’re well-prepared and strategically aligned for the successful implementation of digital twin technology, whether it’s in the context of new construction or existing structures.

Digital Twin Strategy in practice

Understanding the mechanics of a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy reveals a two-pronged approach.

For existing buildings, the process commences with a meticulous evaluation of each system’s current state, focusing on data availability and generation capabilities. Enhancements are recommended where needed, and a readiness scoring system helps benchmark the building’s current state against digital twin viability, effectively providing a clear roadmap for potential upgrades and improvements.

For new buildings, the DTRS involves the application of Digital Twin Ready Design guidelines from the outset. During the design phase, these principles are integrated into the engineering design drawings and documents, and the Building Information Model (BIM) is prepared to cater for a digital twin platform. This means that the relevant model parameters are set up to accommodate future integration with digital twin technology.

Addressing the concern of obsolescence due to rapid technological advancements, the DTRS includes a forward-thinking approach. It involves not only configuring current technologies but also allowing for flexibility and scalability in the design. This adaptability ensures that as new technologies emerge, the building infrastructure can be updated or expanded with minimal disruption. For building owners and managers, staying informed about technological trends and periodically reassessing the digital twin strategy is crucial. Regular updates and the ability to integrate new technological advancements can help mitigate the risk of the DTRS becoming outdated. This proactive and flexible approach ensures that buildings remain relevant and efficient in the face of rapidly evolving technology.

How a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy Paves the Way for Intelligent Buildings

The strategy conducts a thorough evaluation for existing buildings and ensures proactive integration during the design phase for new buildings:

From the data availability perspective, the strategy assesses the current infrastructure for existing structures to determine if the necessary components for data capture are in place. For new buildings, it ensures that the design incorporates the necessary software, systems, controllers, and sensors from the start, laying a solid foundation for future intelligence.

From the data granularity perspective, the strategy identifies opportunities in established buildings to introduce additional sensors to enhance diagnostics and precision. In the blueprint phase of new constructions, it advises on the strategic placement of sensors to ensure rich, detailed data collection upon completion.

From the data integration perspective, the readiness strategy aims to integrate isolated data streams in existing buildings, promoting a seamless flow of information. For new developments, it advocates for the design to facilitate data interoperability and a centralized data environment from the initial stages of the project.

From the BIM perspective, when applied to current buildings, the strategy includes evaluating and, if necessary, enriching the BIM aspects to provide a comprehensive digital representation. For new projects, it ensures that the BIM is fully integrated and digital twin-ready, with detailed asset parameters set from the initial design stages.

Paving the way for future intelligence

In conclusion, a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy is an essential navigator in the realm of intelligent buildings, facilitating not only digital twinning but also the broader spectrum of Smart Building Software, such as Integrated Workplace Management Systems (iWMS), Energy Information Systems (EIS), and Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) platforms. It guarantees the establishment of a suitable infrastructure, optimizing the digital twin’s operation.

More than just a setup, it’s a strategic approach to safeguard your investments against obsolescence and to minimize future expenditure. It positions your building to become a dynamic asset, enhancing value, efficiency, and providing deep insights.

By adopting a Digital Twin Readiness Strategy, you’re not just building for today—you’re investing in a smarter, more adaptable future.