5 Big Benefits of Digital Twins
October 17, 2023
Digital twins are not a new concept. Since first being employed during a compromised Apollo mission in 1970, this advanced construction technology has moved beyond aerospace use, demonstrating value in industries like healthcare, automotive and construction. While it might seem they’re in the relative infancy of their adoption in our industry, they’ve been experiencing a growth spurt in recent years and are poised to continue on that trajectory.
Advanced construction technologies have been earmarked to receive tech investment funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) — highlighting just how critical such technologies are. Adopting these digital tools serves multiple purposes, not the least of which is to help capital projects meet their timeline and budget expectations and to better manage and execute the growing sophistication of modern construction.
For construction managers overseeing environmental and government infrastructure projects, digital twin technology delivers benefits that few other advanced technologies can.
Enhanced visualization aids in design validation and error/conflict detection
As a “digitally living” version of the built asset, digital twins allow you to take virtual tours of the project before and during construction. Its enhanced visualization creates an immersive experience.
Because it’s so highly detailed, stakeholders can explore every aspect of the structure from various angles and perspectives. You can spot potential structural or safety issues and design conflicts and address them before they become built into the asset. And you can get a sense of how a project will fit and function within its immediate surroundings.
These virtual walkthroughs allow government and regulatory representatives to see how well a project is meeting their strict contractual requirements and adhering to environmental regulations. With government funding often paying for such projects, there’s a financial incentive to prove adherence to those requirements, and digital twins do just that.
Minimized environmental impact through compliance tracking
Building sustainably and with the least environmental impact is becoming more the rule than the exception.
Digital twins allow you to experiment with scenarios and evaluate their effects so you can ask critical questions such as: Do any proposed designs or changes negatively affect the environment? What adjustments can be made to minimize them? On the flip side, are any environmental elements — sunlight direction, wind patterns or terrain, for example — shown to impact the structure in a way that necessitates modifications? How will any of those changes or elements alter energy costs to operate the asset? How will seasonal conditions influence building performance?
This proactive approach to determining design scenarios that are environmentally friendly can provide assurance of compliance with regulations.
Improved transparency for project owners, agencies and the public
The transparency into the virtual asset itself — the walkthroughs, the flyovers, the rotation models — shows how it looks from the inside out, all around, and within its physical setting. And there’s the transparency into how the asset will likely perform under specific conditions and over time once it’s in operation. Both provide a broader understanding of a project’s scope, purpose, and reciprocal relationship with occupants and the environment.
Making the project so accessible is a solid way of fostering trust from project owners, regulatory agencies, government representatives and the community, who all have a stake in the success of the built asset.
Reduced rework, reduced costs
Simulating and visualizing the whole project before construction begins creates a prime opportunity to evaluate it thoroughly.
On the one hand, assessing the project with a digital twin can validate that the design works and that project requirements will be met. On the other hand, the process can help reveal physical clashes, design flaws and conflicts, and environmental obstacles that would have otherwise found their way into the physical asset — and wound up as rework activities. Discovering and addressing them in advance can head off that rework and the associated wasted costs that go with it: replacement materials (potentially at a last-minute higher rate), labor to tear down and fix the error, disposal, and so on.
More efficient facilities management
Digital twins continue offering value long after the last construction worker has gone home, playing a pivotal role in making facilities management more efficient and less cumbersome. They conduct behind-the-scenes monitoring of equipment and systems, relaying real-time data about how individual components are performing. What is performing well? What is due for regular maintenance? Is anything showing signs of needing some preventative maintenance? Does anything need a repair, replacement or upgrade? This keeps everything in working order while reducing the risk of damage and breakdowns, whose downtime can have broader, costlier implications for the asset. Overall, digital twins extend the asset’s functional health and safety.
Are environmental or government infrastructure projects currently or projected to be in your portfolio? Digital twin technology, like InEight Digital Twin, is a must-have as part of your arsenal of advanced construction technology. Learn how InEight can support your special capital projects.
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