BIM vs. Digital Twin Technology
Navigating the technology landscape in most industries can sometimes feel like a nightmarish game of mad libs. The jargon can be unending and with the pace of technological change accelerating every year, it’s no wonder industries are slow to define and articulate best practices. For commercial real estate, the last five years have been transformative as organizations start to move beyond mere efficiency of space and start to consider the bigger picture. Integral to this shift has been the importance of data modelling within commercial real estate organizations.
As previously discussed in a series of blogs (or download the eBook for a comprehensive guide), Digital Twins are quickly becoming the go-to for creating robust data models about all aspects of a building at various stages of its life cycle.
However, astute observers will notice some key similarities between what is now called a Digital Twin of a built environment and BIM or building information modelling software. Understandably there has been confusion within the industry about how to differentiate these two important technologies. The confusion in large part comes down to the emphasis of BIM software on physical space represented digitally and Digital Twin’s early definition, a digital replica of the physical world. In this article, we’re going to break down the key differences between Twins and BIM. For example, does a Digital Twin have to include CAD?
Let’s start with BIM. Like Digital Twins it’s been around since the 1970s. It began as many software projects do – through research! Early researchers like Chuck Eastman began using the term “Building Description System” before it became BIM. Also, like Digital Twins, it didn’t hit the mainstream for a few more decades when the likes of Autodesk, Bentley Systems, and others began popularizing it in the early 2000s. The primary goal of BIM in its early research days still holds true, the founding fathers of BIM hypothesized that such a system would be important to contractors of large projects for both a visual and quantitative model of the build. They also figured it would be useful for materials ordering and scheduling.
The early hypothesis for BIM holds true. Even today, leading providers of BIM software appeal to AECs (architecture, engineers, contractors) by explaining the cost-saving benefits of having a central point of building reference in a 3D digital model. This model makes it easier to collaborate and recalibrate design during in-flight projects. Its benefits include lowering the risk of projects through a reduction in errors, better timeline, and budget management. It sounds quite comprehensive, similar to the Digital Twin, yet they differ in a few key aspects.
(1). BIM is tuned for collaboration and visualization during design & construction, not operations & maintenance
As mentioned above, the intent of BIM is not to create a living breathing model of an operational building but help architect and construct that building. The focus for BIM software has been to create a collaborative design and build process that visualizes the physical and functional aspects of a building. With CAD capabilities, visualization in the design and prototyping phase of a new build has been essential for AECs to understand spatial relationships. Unlike a Digital Twin, this physical information model is tuned for buildings in flight, not ones occupied and utilized daily - generating data from new devices like IoT.
(2). Not designed for real-time operational response
Digital Twins are quickly being recognized as the most valuable part of a building tech stack – it is a comprehensive picture of your built environment in real-time. A Digital Twin can give you information about the current state of build subsystems, how they are being impacted by occupant behavior when assets like HVAC or lighting might fail and much more. It is a model that evolves over time to deliver more value with each new stage of the asset's lifecycle. BIM is a key data input for any Digital Twin, but BIM alone cannot answer the operational questions facility managers may have about optimizing operations.
(3). It’s only focused on buildings – not people
According to Gartner the next evolution of the Digital Twin will see use cases moving beyond just assets to include entire organizations or the Digital Twin of an Organization (DTO). This means people, process, and behaviors will also be important data sources that give Digital Twins even more context about the built environment. If trends in CRE continue to gravitate towards understanding occupants and competing on workplace experience, the Digital Twin will certainly supersede BIM software even at the design and build phase of an asset's lifecycle.
As we begin to build things with people and flexibility in mind our building information models will also need to evolve to include behavior patterns of people and space design that accommodates their wellness. Again, BIM alone cannot achieve these outcomes.
BIM, Digital Twins and other top-of-mind topics will be presented by industry subject matter experts at Realcomm | IBcon 2019. The event will be held at the Nashville Music City Center on June 13 & 14 (Golf and RE Tech Tours June 11 | Pre-Con Events: June 12). Register today!
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Microsoft’s Smart Building Partner Pavilion to Host 25+ Companies Poised to REcalibrate the Industry!
Realcomm | IBcon is pleased to announce that Microsoft will be presenting over 25 companies in their new Partner Pavilion and in their booth at this year's conference in Nashville. These groundbreaking group of companies are poised to REcalibrate the smart building industry with their IT-centric approach to connected facilities. These partners, combined with the advanced technical prowess and global reach of Microsoft, are ushering in the next chapter of smart, connected, high-performance, intelligent buildings!
UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
A Path to Net Zero – Driving ENERGY EFFICIENCY in Smart Buildings - 7/18/2019
One of the first trends to emerge in the modern smart building movement was energy conservation and efficiency. Approximately eight years ago, the industry realized that connecting energy related equipment to a network and applying advanced analytics and complex integration strategies could result in a significant reduction in energy and natural resource consumption and a resultant decrease in energy related expenses. In recent years, operational efficiency and occupant experience have been added to the smart building discussion, sometimes overshadowing energy efficiency. This webinar will focus on the very important goal of including energy efficiency in the comprehensive smart building strategy.
Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was started in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolios and urban communities. Tom is a speaker and collaborator with numerous universities and national laboratories, a gubernatorial appointee for energy strategy and policy and founding Chairman of Envision Charlotte, a Clinton Global Initiative.
Sarah currently serves as a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department Building Technology Office where she leads commercial zero energy efforts, district-scale solutions, and a pSarah currently serves as a Senior Advisor for the U.S. Department Building Technology Office where she leads commercial zero energy efforts, district-scale solutions, and a portfolio of data infrastructure projects. In previous roles at DOE, Sarah led local government clean energy innovation programs. Sarah has over 15 years of experience in sustainability and energy work. Before DOE, Sarah worked for Baltimore City where she helped establish their Office of Sustainability.