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Centre for Digital Built Britain completed its five-year mission and closed its doors at the end of September 2022

This website remains as a legacy of the achievements of our five-year foundational journey towards a digital built Britain

The development of a digital twin for the facilities of the University of Cambridge on the West Cambridge campus provided a chance to address the challenges associated with the production of a National Digital Twin (NDT) along with how a digital-twin platform can be used to help local managers delivering various building management tasks.

The West Cambridge Digital Twin Research Facility initially comprised digital twins of three University buildings and the surrounding environment at the campus site including the: Institute for Manufacturing (IfM); Civil Engineering Building; and Department of Computer Science and Technology at the William Gates Building.

The Estates Division of the University of Cambridge, which manages a large portfolio of assets including buildings from 800 years old to the present day, residential units, teaching facilities, laboratories and infrastructures, took part as a partner within the scope of the project. Thus, the research team aimed at exploring the capabilities of digital twin technologies for built environment asset management applications, tools and methods, to support the Estates Division in carrying out their tasks and being capable of the digital twin implementation across the city.

More specifically, the project team explored building level management, with the aim of increasing efficiency in monitoring buildings and embedded systems. The team developed the Building Information Modelling (BIM) based methods to increase knowledge of built assets and their dynamics. Moreover, in addition to BIM, the team also used the Building Management System (BMS), the Energy Management System (BMS) and a custom Internet of Things (IoT) sensor network within the scope of their research.

These sources have been used to develop a Digital Twin platform, informing building managers about the real-time performance of the building and strategically aimed at:

  • Informing better decisions in maintenance and management of the assets, saving resources and improving the performances of the buildings and critical facilities;
  • Improving asset information management processes, to reduce information loss along the life cycle of the assets;
  • Developing more efficient facilities management processes, and supporting building managers with digital tools to monitor and control critical assets.

The project team explored the real potential of both supporting the building managers with data-driven asset management applications and the hardware and digital infrastructure needed. As a result of the research, the project team demonstrated how innovative digital technologies such as BIM and IoT can be used to enable a common data ecosystem via the development of a building-level digital twin platform. The research showed that generating, storing and using the data according to a strong management strategy that empowers more effective and data-driven asset management applications is quite important.


Industry impact

Researchers developing the West Cambridge Digital Twin Research Facility project shared learnings with the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH), Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) and Digital Twin Hub (DT Hub), the web-enabled community for early adopters of digital twins to learn through sharing and progress by doing. The research project was the first digital twin to be registered on the DT Hub and developments were shared across the digital twin community which includes industry leaders and organisations.    


However, the research also revealed that more standardisation in the construction sector is needed in order to achieve higher benefits, delivered by digital twin based approaches. The project demonstrated that the technology is already there to improve facilities and asset management through digital twins, but the change is needed at the industry level and among those engaged in the management of buildings. In other words, more standardisation and data-based decisions is needed to realise the promise of digital twins. 

Based on their case study, the project team concluded that the digital twin related technologies provide tangible benefits for the construction and asset management sectors, supporting the growing body of evidence that has already been demonstrated in other sectors such as manufacturing and aerospace.


Wider benefits

Digital twins demand the organisation of data into interoperable formats that can be securely shared through defined levels of access. This data can be used to inform better policy, planning, and management decision-making on the interaction between the built environment and the economy, society and the natural world. Digital twins will improve organisational safety, productivity and efficiency and provide the foundation for integrating city-scale data to optimise city services to provide better outcomes for people. The NDT brings opportunity to release value for society, the economy, business and the environment at scale. 


This research was a 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 read more about the project here