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Centre for Digital Built Britain

 

In order to realise the potential of digital twin information management within construction and learn how to apply it correctly, we must recognise there is a need for a holistic approach to construction management.

Professor Rafael Sacks was until September 2020 a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) and the Division of Civil Engineering, University of Cambridge. He holds the Ashtrom Engineering Company Chair in Civil Engineering at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

Research recently published in the Data-Centric Engineering journal Construction with digital twin information systems  by Professor Sacks in collaboration with Dr Ioannis Brilakis, Dr Ergo Pikas, Prof Haiyan Sally Xie and Prof Mark Girolami. advocates for a closed loop production control system, through the introduction of a Digital Twin Construction (DTC) method that aims to integrate the existing, yet largely disjointed areas of  computing in construction, construction monitoring technologies and methods and the concept of Lean Construction.

Harnessing data for good

Professor Sacks and his colleagues have developed and defined the concept of Digital Twin Construction (DTC). The paper introduces the concept of DTC and explores the ways in which, by harnessing the existing data streams from construction-based technologies and approaches, the sector could develop a data-centric mode of construction management that supports  digital twin application and allows the full benefits to be realised – e.g. having a more data-centric management method enables construction managers and workers to have significantly better situational awareness, which empowers them to be more proactive to situations that arise, rather than reactive as in most cases currently.

Future planning

One of the key benefits of continued digitisation of the construction sector is in enabling us to deliver improved whole life value of assets that we create. Whole life value focus is a more sustainable approach to construction that allows for the recycling or repurposing of assets beyond the lifetime of their initial purpose. One of the benefits ofa Digital Twin Construction method that looks at the holistic picture, is the possibility to pull together the data sources from the various phases of the design, build and management of asset. This would prove highly valuable when it comes time to redevelop the asset into its next chapter of purpose.

Making it work

As with all innovative ideas, there needs to be a plan. In ‘Construction with Digital Twin Information Systems’ Professor Sacks outlines an approach to making DTC a reality. The paper is designed to contribute to, and evolve the existing understanding of the role of digital twins within construction, identifying and exploring ways in which other existing areas of innovation, such as BIM, can align to create far greater opportunities for the sector’s future whilst building more reliability and resilience. The paper introduces a proposed system workflow that’s defined around a set of principles, and identifies the dimensions that define the conceptual space for information used in the DTC workflow, enabling the sector to, for the first time, tangibly see how the elements contributing to the digital transformation of the sector can deliver real benefit, in real-life situations.

Ongoing Research

Together with 15 academic and industrial partners throughout Europe, Professor Sacks and Dr. Brilakis are continuing their research toward Digital Twin Construction within the framework of the BIM2TWIN project funded by the EU Commission under the Horizon 2020 program. The DTC concept outlined in their paper forms the intellectual foundation for the project. More information about the project, which began recently, can be found here.

This research forms part of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s (CDBB) work at the University of Cambridge within the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH). The CIH is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Fund. You can download and read the full paper here.