Explaining digital twins of buildings

I was asked one day “What is a digital twin actually?”. I started to explain something but noticed soon that the other person asked a trick question. The more I started to think and read about it, the more I understood that I don´t know.

Digital twin is a thing that quite many people, in the property industry, talk about, but everyone seems to understand in different ways.

Quite many say it is a BIM model and other say it is a storage of building related data.

I googled and found a nice definition that I like from Wikipedia. It goes like this: “A digital twin is a real time digital replica of a physical device”

A way to understand how a building works

I would define it something like this: “A digital twin is a representation of static and dynamic data of a real building with its systems, measurements, and functionalities.”

The 3D model, or BIM model, is usually heavily linked to a digital twin. My colleague Kimmo Mattila said a few days ago that “the BIM model works as a visual layer that makes it easy for the human to understand complex and big amounts of data”.

I agree, a digital twin is not only a BIM model, it contains a large amount of data about the building that is quite hard to understand and comprehend. The BIM model of the building enhanced with static and dynamic data from different sources is a great way to show how a building is doing in an understandable way.

So, what does Granlund Manager support now?

Granlund has been working with BIM design and models as long as I remember. I started at Granlund 2003 and then everyone was saying that “IFC2FM” is on the market in 3 years. Quite many “3 years“ later, Granlund came out with the first version of a Virtual Twin, in the FM tool Granlund Manager, two years ago.

The current features that are on the market are showing heat maps of indoor climate issues and amount of open service requests in a 3D model of the building.

These are first steps as we learn more about what the industry is asking after.

More is coming

As I am writing this, our developers are resolving difficult problems how to solve the things that the market is asking for. Exactly what they are, is still unclear to me but what I have seen and heard it will take us as a company and the industry a few steps further.

When will digital twins be mainstream?

At the moment digital twins are not mainstream products. There is a great hype about digital twins and BIM2FM, but I have not yet seen the market to be ready to use it. One reason is that there are not that many FM-solutions that support it and another is that the customers doesn´t seem to be ready. I would believe that in the coming “3 years” there are good products and the market is more mature for this. Hopefully it will happen during this “3 year“ period.

Read also:

Why most sustainability projects will fail?

Energy optimisation is a continuous process – Don’t forget to follow up

There is no magic wand to save energy

Written by
Otto Åkerberg
Otto is a Regional Manager at Granlund. He has over 15 years of experience as a consultant, specialised in the operation phase of buildings. His current role is to expand the business in the European market. Otto is a keen rugby player that loves food. He has been called a gastronaut as he is always interested to taste something new.