The Center for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), a digital twin research effort in the UK, recently completed a five-year charter aimed at linking points between building design and the connected ecosystem of digital twins. Over the years, research efforts have helped foster conversations about how improved data sharing can improve construction processes and foster shared understanding among stakeholders.
As a farewell gift, the group has compiled several reports focusing on how digital twins can be used to address business, social and environmental goals. Gemini Papers explores best practices for aligning the physical infrastructure of technology, digital replicas and touching on social issues. A separate white paper with the same focus “How Finance and the Digital Twins Can Shape a Better Future for the Planet.”
“We need to have a built environment that can be built and operated for people and the planet to thrive together for generations to come,” said Alexandra Bolt, CDBB’s executive director. “We believe that if you have better data, you can make better decisions and get better results.”
Data integration is key
One of the biggest challenges CDDB identified during its years of research and collaboration was data integration and sharing.
“We’ve been collecting data for years, but it hasn’t been put to full use because of the silos,” said Mark Coates, Bentley Systems’ international director of public policy and advocacy and co-author of the research.
Open data does not mean that data is provided freely, but rather that all parties identify ways to exchange data that addresses all security and privacy considerations. Another notable consideration is that data is translated into contexts using standard ontology and frameworks to illustrate what data means. This is important to bridge the gap between the data workflow of engineers and designers working to build new buildings – as well as the owners and technicians who focus on building operations and the governments and bankers who finance them.
The group claims that there is a huge potential for influencing investors on how data is used to make infrastructure decisions. Lead financiers are exploring how digital twins can improve capital allocation processes, help screen and manage risk, and improve asset value. A promising example is Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Australia, which provides a catalyst for a publicly sponsored mega-project city-level digital twin that supports better investment decisions.
There is a range of different types of investors, such as private equity firms, commercial banks and institutional investors, each of which uses different strategies to generate returns. In addition, everyone needs to consider how to create digital twins to represent a wide variety of assets, from low-yielding low-risk key assets such as energy, rail and water to more opportunistic investments such as data centers, air or port expansion. .
Working with construction teams, investors and users is essential to connecting the digital twins with specific investor strategies. For example, debt-oriented companies, such as banks, use digital twins to manage risks and secure better rates. Equity firms are using digital twins to increase the value of assets, while governments are using digital twins to improve data sharing for the public good.
Although CDDB has just completed its mission, many of its activities, including the Digital Twin Hub, continue to promote extensive collaboration in engineering construction, finance and engineering teams.
“We need to develop descriptions and evidence of digital twins for the wider community around risk management, ESG reporting and better returns on investment,” said Peter Al Hajj, lead of Britain’s National Digital Twin Program at the Center for Digital Built.
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