One of the most promising developments in the construction sector is the implementation of Digital Twin. The future of this sector lies in the adoption of new technologies. The industry is undergoing a radical transformation as new digital tools and solutions are integrated into all stages of the construction process. From planning and design to construction and maintenance, technology is playing a key role in improving efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the sector.

What is a Digital Twin?

In the construction industry, a Digital Twin refers to the creation of a digital representation of a building, infrastructure or construction project in real time. It is a digital replica that incorporates specific data and characteristics of the physical object, allowing for detailed monitoring and analysis of its performance and behaviour.

The main objective of using a Digital Twin is to provide a comprehensive and detailed view of the physical object, from its design and construction to its operation and maintenance. This allows construction professionals to make more informed decisions and optimize the performance of the object at all stages of its lifecycle.

How is a digital twin created?

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IoT) and 3D modelling are used to create a Digital Twin. These technologies allow real-time data to be collected from sensors located on the physical object, such as temperature, humidity, pressure, energy flow, among others. This data is used to update and feed the Digital Twin, providing an accurate virtual representation of the object at all times.

To create a Digital Twin the following steps must be followed:

  1. Defining the objective: Before starting, it is important to define the objective and scope of the Digital Twin. What aspects of the physical object do you want to replicate and what do you hope to achieve with the Digital Twin? This will help guide the creation process.
  1. Data collection: Relevant data is collected about the physical object such as design data, drawings, technical specifications, material information, technical documentation and any relevant aspects for the creation of the Digital Twin.
  1. 3D modelling: Using 3D modelling software, a digital representation of the physical object is created. This involves recreating its geometry, structure and physical characteristics in the virtual environment. Data collected in the previous step can be used to ensure the accuracy of the model.
  1. Data and sensor integration: The data collected in step 2 is integrated into the 3D model. In addition, if the physical object has sensors, a connection is established to collect real-time data. This allows the Digital Twin to be updated with the actual information of the physical object.
  1. Implementation of algorithms and analysis: Algorithms and analysis techniques can be implemented to process the collected data. This may include performance analysis, simulations, predictions and other evaluations relevant to the physical object.
  1. User interface: A user interface is developed to allow interaction and visualisation of the Digital Twin. This may include 3D representations, interactive dashboards and analysis tools to access and understand the Digital Twin data.
  1. Continuous updating: The Digital Twin is continuously updated with new data and measurements of the physical object. This ensures that it accurately reflects the real-time status and behaviour of the building.

Applications in the construction sector and asset management

The applications of Digital Twins in construction and asset management are many and offer significant benefits to the industry. Some of the main applications are:

  1. Project design and planning: Digital Twins allow the design of construction projects to be simulated and visualised prior to their physical execution. This helps to identify potential problems, optimise the design and evaluate project performance before investing resources in construction.
  1. Virtual construction: They facilitate virtual construction, which involves the simulation of construction activities in the digital environment. This allows optimising the construction sequence, assessing logistics, identifying potential conflicts and improving efficiency at the construction site.
  1. Real-time performance monitoring: They collect real-time data from sensors located on physical assets providing a detailed and up-to-date view of asset performance, allowing to monitor their operation, identify deviations, assess the impact of changes and take corrective actions in a timely manner.
  1. Predictive maintenance: These use analytics and machine learning algorithms to predict future performance and detect potential asset problems. This enables a predictive maintenance approach to be implemented, proactively scheduling maintenance tasks and avoiding unexpected outages or costly repairs.
  1. Long-term asset management: The Digital Twins provide a centralized platform for managing assets throughout their lifecycle, including collecting and updating data, documenting changes and improvements, tracking maintenance, scheduling renewals and making informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information.
  1. Resource optimisation and energy efficiency: They can help optimize the use of resources, such as energy and materials, by providing detailed information on the energy consumption and performance of assets. This allows identifying opportunities for improvement, implementing energy efficiency strategies and reducing operational costs.
  1. Scenario simulation and risk analysis: These allow different scenarios to be simulated and potential risks to be assessed before important decisions are made. In this way, it helps to mitigate risks, improve workplace safety and optimize contingency planning.

BIM and Digital Twin

BIM and Digital Twin are two related but different concepts in the construction industry.

BIM provides a solid base of detailed and accurate information about the building elements in a project. On the other hand, Digital Twins take advantage of this information and enrich it with real-time data of the physical object. Digital Twins can be considered as an evolved extension of BIM, as they go beyond the static representation and provide dynamic and updated information of the physical object throughout its lifetime.

BIM is the starting point for creating a Digital Twin, which provides the initial information and structure of the model. As the construction evolves and is monitored, the data in the Digital Twin is updated and enriched with real-time information, providing a complete and up-to-date view of the physical object in the virtual world.

In conclusion, the future of this sector lies in the application of Digital Twins, if and when you want an optimized project that improves efficiency and productivity, i.e. if you want a better project.