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A Smart Building Digital Twin Can Unlock the Potential of Your Assets

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Jason Pohl

Smart building digital twins model the physical assets they represent, providing a link between simulated and real-world structures. Especially useful in data-driven smart buildings, digital twins are becoming an important tool for optimizing building operations and performance. But which type of smart building digital twin is best to unlock the potential of your assets? 

What Is a Smart Building Digital Twin? 

Digital twins use sensors to accurately measure a building’s performance. With data gathered from a smart building’s sensors, key variables like energy usage, climate control, and occupant behavior are more easily identified and described. This data allows engineers, IT managers, and other stakeholders to determine how a building will react under certain conditions. Essentially creating a virtual model of a smart building, digital twin technology also helps evaluate the performance of its systems and subsystems. 

The following are necessary for a smart building digital twin:

  • Data that pertains to how a building is used, including its operational systems, IT infrastructure, occupant behavior, and other factors
  • Situational awareness about the state of the structure and its occupants, delineated from real-time data collected by smart sensors 
  • Data analysis that produces meaningful insights
  • Key performance indicators to align objectives with evaluation of building performance

Smart building digital twins link the physical structure to a digital model, using sensors that collect data in real-time to accurately portray how a building will react in specific situations.  

Types of Digital Twins

Digital twins are often categorized as the following types: 

  • Static digital twins mainly focus on three-dimensional models and don’t integrate physical and virtual environments

  • Detailed digital twins utilize and trace building data flowing from a building’s systems to manually enable better analysis and greater control

  • As-built digital twins are typically used during new construction or retrofitting projects to bring data from the physical structures to virtual models, cataloging and adjusting differences between the two manually to maintain proximity between the digital and physical worlds

  • Sensor-based digital twins populate data into the virtual model from the physical structure to create greater system autonomy, enabling users to take advantage of IoT networks to automate some processes carried out manually while making use of dataflows that integrate virtual and physical environments

  • Responsive digital twins utilize IoT devices to collect data autonomously from the physical structure, providing real-time data that enables action according to pre-established parameters, with limited integrations between physical and virtual worlds that allow certain automated processes based on AI-enabled machine learning

  • Adaptive digital twins allow more data to flow between physical and virtual worlds, enabling more precise ML algorithms to allow greater automation and create more exact responses to AI analysis, though it still relies on evaluation by humans to verify decision-making

  • Intelligent digital twins allow a totally autonomous platform where dataflows are fully integrated between virtual and physical environments, allowing already tested ML algorithms that enable a system that learns and regulates on its own to improve building performance. 

In a smart building, digital twins go beyond just gathering data. They are also used to control physical systems and simulate changes in conditions to predict possible future events. This allows you to implement cutting-edge predictive maintenance techniques. 

Benefits of Smart Building Digital Twins

Digital twins offer several advantages for design engineers, IT managers, and other stakeholders involved in building operations. These include supporting: 

  • Cost savings through the use of faster, better decision-making 
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Remote real-time monitoring and control
  • Risk assessments prior to the start of construction

These capabilities are powerful and can transform both operations and performance of your smart building. The challenge is to implement the right smart building digital twin that is most beneficial to optimize building performance and improve predictive maintenance.  

Choosing the Right Smart Building Digital Twin

Understanding smart building digital twins is important to ensure you choose the best approach for your building. Some of the key aspects of smart building digital twins are:

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Replicating physical infrastructure

Digital twins look at multiple processes within the built environment and replicate the physical infrastructure. They show how people use certain spaces, allowing engineers and designers to tweak controls for systems like HVAC or lighting. This enables more efficient, and sometimes safer, use of specific areas within a built environment.

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Data flow

Digital twins rely on real-time data from subsystems and smart sensors that track occupant behavior. The data flows are bidirectional. They first come from sensors monitoring building systems, with smart building platforms or other central controls processing this data into useful information. These control systems then use these insights to adjust system operations and conditions within the building.

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Assessing the built environment through various vantage points

Continuous data updates and added computing power enable digital twins to study a much wider range of issues from a variety of vantage points. This provides greater potential for understanding how to improve building processes, systems, and equipment. As a contextual model for a smart building, digital twins bring together OT and IT systems with IoT sensors and data from third parties.


Considering these points, a system and asset digital twin is typically the most helpful for operators looking for improved performance of their buildings, along with a robust predictive maintenance program. The digital twin combines different assets of a smart building system and monitors and gathers the generated data in one place. This allows for easy utilization of the real-time data by the building management, resulting in meaningful asset tracking and management. It also makes it possible to simulate operations and compare historical data to project any potential anomalies in equipment functions and optimize asset maintenance. 

Every smart building is unique with specific digital twin requirements. With Buildings IOT, you can better assess the smart building digital twin that works best for your premises and create a healthy, comfortable, energy-efficient, and sustainable infrastructure for your tenants.

To learn more about how Building IOT’s innovative products and services support digital twin technology in the built environment, contact our team of experts today.

 

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