BIM to Twin

The construction sector has travelled a long way since the famous BIM technology maturity wedge was published in 2008.

Back then there was little awareness of BIM with 2D CAD being the norm. I’m not sure if Mervin Richards or Mark Bew had given any thought to how long it would take to get to Level 2 maturity.

However, the government mandate in 2011 put BIM in the spotlight and “encouraged” many to start to think about their own strategies. The sceptics were encouraged by a wave of enthusiasm for digital from young talent joining the industry who were shocked by the lack of technology being used.

Now, Level 2 is well on the way to maturity. There are some who will say we still have a long way to go to achieve full adoption and I don’t disagree. However, the reality is that we’ll never get to a position where it’s universally adopted across the sector.

The BIM Alliance are doing a great job of maintaining the momentum whilst also demonstrating the value of a structured process and a commitment to accurate data.

My role at Space Group is to look at what’s next and to ensure we continue to innovate. We bought into parametric modelling in 2001, we were one of the first BIM consultancies in the UK as well as the first BIM library in Europe.

My role at Space Group is to look at what’s next and to ensure we continue to innovate.

So, the big question is: what’s next? Richards and Bew predicted Level 3 and referenced asset life-cycle and data management. This was incredibly visionary considering where the sector was in 2008. It’s taken 10 years but Level 3 is now a reality – which, in relative terms, is incredibly quick taking into account the progress over the previous 100 years.

As the wedge was looking so far into the future, it was difficult to be too prescriptive about what Level 3 might include. I would add an additional word: analytics. We have been able to create an infrastructure which allows us to gather data and link or embed it into 3D models. COBie was criticised and misunderstood but I think it has been fundamental in helping the sector to understand the importance of consistency and structure of data.

We’ve had clients who were sceptical of the scheme but are now benefiting from the data we collected. Far better ways of structuring and collecting data will emerge in the months and years ahead but Cobie broke ground.

So now that we have fantastic models full of data, what’s next?

The Grenfell disaster has moved digital information up the agenda. The reference to the Golden Thread has encouraged building owners to consider the potential of digital handover information.

At the same time, the understanding of the Digital Twin has grown and its potential has become apparent. There’s a lot of debate on Twitter about what a Digital Twin is, as there has been about Level 2 and 3 over the years. Social media has helped accelerate understanding and these discussions will always raise awareness.

At Space we are very clear about what a Digital Twin is to us. It is a digital representation of the physical. We don’t get too hung up on definition, rather we focus on the opportunity and the potential for improved outcomes.

At Space we are very clear about what a Digital Twin is to us.

So, the Digital Twin is the logical progression of the sector. It was referred to as Level 3 in 2008 and 10 years later it is now a reality.

With improved mobile networks, cloud processing and the commercialising of IoT, Digital Twins are easily accessible. When we add all of this new technology to the models we have been developing over the last 10 years, the potential is huge.

At the same time, the Millennial generation have matured and there are some new kids on the block called ‘Generation Z.’ The environment is now front and centre for millennials, the Digital Twin allows access to data so that we can optimise the use of resources.

Millennials expect answers immediately. They’ve grown up with Google which gives them answers in milliseconds - so building data needs to be quickly accessible too. Millennials can’t understand why this information is not to hand and they won’t accept the failings of the sector in the past. We’re already seeing a more inclusive sector and the culture is changing slowly.

So, the linking of our digital versions of our buildings and data within them is the next logical step. BIM feels a little flatfooted now and the future continues to look incredibly exciting.

Whether we call this ‘Level 3’ or ‘Digital Twin’ I don’t mind, it’s the opportunity which excites. When the term ‘BIM’ was adopted, it helped us understand. I think Digital Twin will do the same. I expect the reality of Level 3 has happened far sooner that Mervin and Mark expected - the wedge is more of an upward curve, rather than a straight line.

At Space Group we’ve been anticipating this next stage of maturity and have been working on a response to the opportunity over the last three years. In June, we released the beta version of TwinView which is our Digital Twin platform. We’re currently trialing the platform with a number of clients but will launch the commercial platform in February, which will be one of the first Digital Twin platforms for the property sector. Hopefully our vision is pointing us in the right direction.

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