The construction sector plays an important role in the Australian economy and is a large contributor to the nation's GDP. As construction begins to bounce back after COVID, the industry can take advantage of many opportunities for growth and transformation, especially through technology and automation.
Traditional processes and workflows tend to be manual and time-consuming. Many companies are now investing in digitalising entire projects from start to finish—and they are reaping the rewards of lower costs, shorter schedules, safer sites, and higher productivity. Implementing digital capabilities in construction can be a major catalyst for fast-tracking projects and ensuring successful project outcomes for everyone involved. Today, one of the most flexible and powerful digital capabilities for construction is a digital twin.
Understanding Digital Twins
A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical object or process, and often incorporates the engineering information needed to fully understand and model its performance. A digital twin provides a live feed that changes along with the state of the physical asset, allowing for real-time remote monitoring. Infrastructure digital twins exploit 3D and 4D design and visualisation, reality modelling, mixed reality, and geotechnical engineering technologies.
Digital twins are proving to be valuable across all stages of a project lifecycle. Advancing BIM workflows into evergreen digital twins allows design models and simulations to serve a greater role in improving infrastructure project delivery.
Benefits of Using Digital Twins
There are several benefits of using digital twins in construction beyond improved visualisation and optimised asset performance. Digital twins can help teams make informed, data-driven decisions and achieve more predictable outcomes.
A construction digital twin provides competitive advantages to companies through improved design insights, which grants analytical visibility into the path of construction, simulates logistics, reveals the cost impact of design decisions, improves workflow management, and boosts collaboration. Teams can easily manage project schedules, track progress, and measure other key performance indicators attached to the asset. A robust digital twin can also help predict and identify potential obstacles and risks, further improving the project’s performance.
Using Digital Twins at Every Stage
A digital twin can be useful at every stage in a construction project, from design to engineering. Its utility permeates the construction and operations phases to boost the project’s productivity from end to end.
Digital twins are typically created during the design phase by assembling data from existing conditions, including information from surveys, reality capture, or asset databases, and integrating it into design models. While live data might be limited at this stage, the digital twin workflows aid in developing optimised designs and facilitating collaboration across the design and engineering teams.
The digital twin can then augment the development process by using purpose-built construction management solutions. For example, projects can leverage their digital twins to combine design data, reality models, and schedule data to create 4D and 5D construction information in near real-time. This key step transforms workflows, enabling model-based planning with real-time progress updates from the field, automated execution, and the capture of real-time compliance and performance tasks. All these capabilities, in turn, help individuals, teams, and projects to make better decisions in a timely way.
The Future of Digital Twins
Digital twin technology in construction is still at the early-adopter stage, but the migration towards digital solutions is both vital and inevitable.
There has been a great push to explore the use of collaborative systems and digital workflows to achieve strong ROI. Incorporating new technologies and processes is a value-driven, transformative opportunity to improve. Many organisations in the construction sector are adopting an increasingly technology-driven mindset due to the challenges of the global pandemic, which are creating a greater need for digitalising operations.
Bentley Systems sees great potential for the construction industry to evolve with technology as the primary catalyst. Changing market dynamics and shifting perspectives will create more opportunities for construction technology solution providers, with digital twins playing a significant role in moving the industry forward.