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Explainers

How digital twins can avoid BIM’s adoption issues

6 May 2021

3D Repo head of digital twins Matthew Osment and founder and CEO Dr Jozef Doboš discuss how digital twins can avoid the adoption issues that have plagued BIM.

The government mandated the use of BIM on public projects back in 2011, and although adoption has gradually grown, many teams are ill at ease with the whole process.

The inconsistent quality of BIM information and data exchange throughout design and construction has undoubtedly limited its efficacy. For a long time, BIM was considered a type of software, rather than an over-arching approach and a way of thinking. Client support was a crucial driver for change, but many remained in the dark on its value. All these issues will also prevent digital twins from becoming the game changer, too.

We must spread the lessons learnt from what happened with BIM. Digital twin adoption doesn’t have to be this complicated – in reality, taking ‘baby steps’ with digital twins and gradually scaling up is also a valid approach that can provide very positive outcomes without huge investment.

Start small

Grand notions of monolithic interconnected models are inspiring, but also daunting for the majority of consultants or contractors who want to get a foothold on the digital twin ladder.

Similar concerns held back the uptake of BIM as potential users were put off by the idea of complex software set-ups and the belief they had to implement the full government Level 2 BIM standard. For most, the digital up-skilling and the huge up-front costs were simply too much to bear.

Yet, we worked closely with progressive clients such as Canary Wharf Group and their own Canary Wharf Contractors who realised the potential and benefit of BIM.

We see the same situation with digital twins: all it takes is a progressive view and the appreciation for the promised return on investment. It doesn’t have to be this complicated: in reality taking small steps with digital twins and gradually scaling them up is the most suitable.

Organising information

Despite widespread adoption of various BIM standards and guidance on projects, information requirements for 3D models are often not properly set and the data within is either structured inconsistently, or missing entirely, in part because of the way contracts are drawn up. These failures will necessarily limit the effectiveness of digital twins that often take the existing BIM models and build upon them.

Better due diligence on information sharing should see asset owners demand the details of what was constructed on-site, the treasure trove of as-built versus as-is information needed to run a digital twin. Gathering this data in a consistent and organised manner would avoid the extra investment needed upon project delivery.

We must spread the lessons learnt from what happened with BIM. Digital twin adoption doesn’t have to be this complicated.– Matthew Osment, 3D Repo

Not just the operational phase

The ability to run a virtual replica of a built asset, brought to life by real-time data, offers short- and long-term benefits across the entire asset lifecycle. It can underpin more effective process execution and supercharge on-going operations and maintenance.

[However] a major misconception is that digital twins are only suitable for asset operation and facilities management. Yet, twins can also test construction sequencing and logistics scenarios, verify the as-built situation, or run ‘what if’ simulations using live data from building sensors to optimise performance and sustainability.

All of this can vastly reduce the errors and inconsistencies associated with more traditional methods of information management in construction.

Understand the benefits

The creation and management of digital twins extend across the entire project lifecycle, so stakeholders involved in every stage should understand the benefits and how they can contribute to the process.

Engagement of people who own and operate the assets will need to ensure that project teams appreciate what information needs to be recorded and when. Clients often look to their consultants for advice on the best way to procure built assets, and as with BIM, if they do not understand the tangible monetary as well as process value of digital twins, it will be very difficult.

Bespoke needs define a twin

With BIM, there was a certain level of consensus that resulted in the development of the ISO 19650 standard. Unfortunately, the definition of digital twins turned into the Wild West and it seems anyone who is someone has the urge to provide their own definition of what a DT should or should not comprise. Ultimately, what matters is the clear benefit and business case that each and every DT can bring to their users and that is the definition under which any sensible client should subscribe.

Digital twins transcend sectors, which means working collectively, through shared frameworks and ecosystems to achieve wider social, economic and environmental benefits. If these challenges can be sufficiently met, a new era awaits, one that represents a shift to a more connected, digitally enabled world.

The whitepaper, Digital Twins: How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of BIM, can be downloaded from: https://3drepo.com/digital-twins-white-paper/

Image: 212967199 © Kanawat | Dreamstime.com