Home » White paper calls for industry to awaken ‘sleeping digital twin’

White paper calls for industry to awaken ‘sleeping digital twin’

by Mark Cantrell
A man interacting with a digital world via a VR headset

The built environment sector needs to adopt a new spirit of openness and collaboration if a pathway to a net zero urban landscape is to be maximised and achieved.

That’s according to a newly released collaborative white paper, spearheaded by Glasgow-based climate technology firm, IES.

Sleeping Digital Twins: Exploring the appetite, benefits, and challenges of whole-life building performance modelling, features viewpoints from the UKGBC, CIBSE, Introba, SWECO, Gafcon Digital, HOK, HLM Architects, Perth & Kinross Council, the University of Birmingham, and the University of Glasgow.

The paper sets out to identify barriers toward better building outcomes, where digital models exist but are too infrequently used to their maximum potential. According to the paper, this is due to a host of “siloed” ways of working between parties engaged in the whole life cycle of buildings.

To counter this, the white paper advocates for a more open use of digital assets, and new mechanisms to overcome legal hurdles that it says currently impair their use as methods to accelerate the decarbonisation of buildings.

Don McLean, founder and chief executive of IES, said: “Whilst the government is backtracking on net-zero policies, the built environment sector is making strides towards change. As an industry, we are united on the need to decarbonise the world’s buildings as efficiently as possible to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.”

The paper introduces IES’ Sleeping Digital Twin initiative, which is the theory that dormant 3D design, compliance and BIM models that exist for the majority of the current building stock can be evolved into performance digital twins that are usable across the whole building lifecycle.

It is the process of unlocking these models for new use where the spirit of collaboration and openness is required, the paper argues. However, significant questions relating to intellectual property, ownership and legal ramifications were cited as reasons for models not currently being shared, with 58% of AEC consultants surveyed selecting legal implications as the main barrier to model sharing.

With the sector overtly committed to driving down carbon emissions in both new build and retrofit projects, it argues that the use of these ‘sleeping’ models would unlock vast carbon savings and enable the delivery of better outcomes for building owners, occupiers and designers.

McLean added: “We’ve led the creation of this white paper to highlight the importance of utilising technology which supports whole-life performance modelling to meet net-zero targets. The tools for change already exist but are not used to their full potential which is where the Sleeping Digital Twins initiative comes in. The industry is waking up to the benefits of this method, but there are still many barriers to overcome.

“As a result, we need a new approach, which begins with greater collaboration. A spirit of openness is needed to thaw engrained approaches and unlock the potential we have at our fingertips. There is clear appreciation for the need for better use of digital assets. 83% of AEC consultants and 66% of clients agree that better utilisation of energy models in building operation can help us achieve net-zero goals. Now, we need to take the first steps towards creating this change.”

Key themes discussed within the white paper include the current uptake of whole life performance modelling and the appetite for change, challenges and barriers to progress, benefits of adopting this approach, and ownership and accessibility of models.

It concludes with a series of next steps that can help towards industry-wide uptake of whole-life performance modelling to move away from a culture of compliance and optimise building performance.

McLean said: “This white paper is just the beginning of an important conversation, and we hope that it will be both informative and instructive for AEC practitioners and building operators. It aims to act as a catalyst for a shift towards better use of digital assets, closing the performance gap and decarbonising our building stock.”

Image credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

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