A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world object. Digital twins have many applications, however in the construction world, a digital twin is an exact replica of a construction project or asset e.g., a building or group of buildings, a bridge, a highway, city block, all the way up to an entire city.
Digital twin technology can help achieve net-zero emissions by optimising energy efficiency, predict maintenance, supply chain optimisation, renewable energy systems simulation, carbon footprint tracking, material selection & optimisation, and life cycle analysis. As the built environment faces increasing pressure to prioritise decarbonisation, Soben and IES have developed technology that helps guide the journey to net-zero – making it more financially feasible.
Whether you’re a tech enthusiast eager to explore digital twins or a professional looking into its capabilities, this FAQ guide is designed to address a range of common questions that arise when discussing digital twins and more specifically Soben and IES’ technology.
Before we do, here are some abbreviations we think will be useful:
MEP – Mechanical, electrical and plumbing
BIM – Building information modelling
IoT – Internet of things
BMS – Building management system
WLC – Whole life-cycle carbon
LCA – Life cycle analysis
Q: What actually is a digital twin? How is it different from Excel?
A: The digital twin utilises an industry-leading physics-based simulation engine that calculates all the thermal energy transactions that occur between the rooms, occupants, MEP services, equipment and the external environment, down to every minute of the year. This provides a very accurate model of the building, unlike a spreadsheet.
Q: Is the technology used for large and small projects?
A: Digital twin technology has the capabilities to be used for any scale of project.
Q: What is the benefit of offering this to a client?
A: Clients are provided with access to the IES/Soben digital twin dashboard which includes a 3D interactive digital twin – all accessed through an internet browser.
Q: Does the digital twin model capture real-time data of buildings from IoT devices? Can you integrate a digital twin into an existing BMS?
A: It can capture real data as it is generated from the building. Yes, data from the BMS can be used in the digital twin!
Q: Some locations, may not have good solar radiation, what is done in those cases? Can solar panel installation be installed in remote locations?
A: If solar is not feasible, then digital twins allow you to test other options such as wind turbines, solar thermal, heat pumps, fabric enhancements and energy efficiency measures. There are endless options to what digital twin technologies can offer.
Q: The digital twin measures only operational carbon, not embodied carbon from construction, is that correct?
A: No – Our virtual environment software enables users to perform an embodied carbon / WLC assessment through its direct connection with One Click LCA. Furthermore, the proposed decarbonization measures can be accompanied with an embodied carbon assessment on each measure.
Q: What systems need to be installed in a building to monitor performance and create a digital twin?
A: Any existing BMS, metering and controls can be used. In the absence of these, utility bills can be used, but they do provide less granularity. The digital twin can be used to perform a degree of reverse engineering.
Q: How do you establish air tightness of the existing building?
A: If measured data is not available then a reasonable assumption can be made based on the age and construction of the building.
Q: What is the security concern in adopting digital twin technology? What measures are put in place to curb these challenges?
A: We work hard to ensure that all data is secure. All data is hosted on Microsoft Azure for industry-leading security, reliability compliance and privacy.
Q: Do you have case study examples where digital twins have provided sustainable savings for both consumption and cost post-model completion?
A: Yes, we have case studies available, please reach out to your Soben of IES contact for further information. High level case studies can also be viewed here: Case Studies
We have only scratched the surface of the digital twin potential, they have proven their need in various industries, and the influence is assured to expand even further. As the landscape of technology evolves and new innovations emerge, one thing is certain: the journey of discovery with digital twins is ongoing. These FAQs provide some foundations to navigate around this exciting offering.
Speak to Pieter below to discover how Soben can assist you in reaching your net-zero target: