Evolving and adapting your facility to keep pace with the brilliant innovation happening within its walls is mission critical. But what happens if you don’t have enough time, resources, and capital to dedicate to this purpose? Don’t fret—the road to innovation can continue.
With today's emerging “digital twin,” technology, the maintenance of most facilities is more accessible. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a digital twin is a digital replication of a physical asset and helps to optimize facility management and pave the way for even greater building performance management.
I interviewed Curtis Boivin, AIA, Technical Planner of Facilities Management at Phillips Exeter Academy, to get the owner’s perspective on the value of a digital twin. We explored the notion of the digital twin and how to implement it efficiently into existing workflows. In short, these applications make facility management a more collaborative, economical, and efficient process. Watch to learn what data owners need most when a project’s delivered to create a digital twin, and what Curtis’ experience has been with using a digital twin on recent projects for effective collaboration.
“The digital twin is like having both a map and a guidebook for a trip through the building services,” says Curtis Boivin, AIA, Technical Planner of Facilities Management at Philips Exeter Academy.
In my conversation with Curtis, three themes emerged on the benefits of using a digital twin for facilities management:
BIM has become the standard for many AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) practices worldwide. It all starts with the 3D model, and then data accumulates throughout the project on both the individual components of the building and the infrastructure assets used to simulate and analyze the operating environment. This data reflects the design quality, quantities, and specifications, streamlines risk-free prefabrication onsite, and assists owners in managing buildings after completion. Planning for the handover of this data needs to start during preconstruction to ensure the model has both the geometry and properties required by the owner to effectively operate and maintain the asset on day one after handover.
The current handover and closeout process results in the loss of data, creating more work for owners and facilities managers to manage complex MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) systems and building components. In most projects today, the contractor ends up with fully coordinated 3D models that are packed with useful geometric and spec info. These information-rich 3D models can be a powerful catalyst to empower facility managers with straightforward steps to build a digital twin.
And the best part about a digital twin? Owners don’t have to be an expert in BIM or MEP to leverage the data delivered by the contractor. A huge challenge for our industry is not leveraging BIM data once projects are delivered. Many of us think BIM is only beneficial to visualize, coordinate, simulate, and analyze the changes throughout construction. However, BIM data benefits the owner by giving them access to the building or infrastructure asset data to optimize operations and maintenance. Once owners understand the broad spectrum of data and how to use it to improve day-to-day operations and long-term maintenance, it will be easier for them to maintain their facility.
At Philips Exeter Academy, BIM data is embedded into the digital twin platform to integrate all the MEP data, including the plumbing and lighting fixtures and their corresponding manufacturing catalog information into a web-based 3D model for any owner to use without training. This leading-edge digital twin technology is a living document that could be updated and grows as elements are replaced or added and will benefit the facilities management team for years to come.
The only way we can push the industry forward is to take intelligent risks and start tackling challenges with today’s technology to get to tomorrow’s vision. Digital twins can be practical by taking the following steps early during preconstruction and adding essential details on the following assets:
Ductwork models should include essential major equipment data, such as RTUs and/or AHUs, boilers, pumps, and exhaust fans. Although these drawings have been approved by the architect and engineer, in some instances the ductwork layout may need to be modified to accommodate the work of another trade during coordination, so up-to-date BIM data should be included in the final version before implementing the digital twin platform.
The second half of the HVAC coordination and modeling component consists of piping, which can be quite large. Often, the contract drawings only indicate piping in a single line format. This common occurrence has been known to cause unforeseen conflicts, with the final resolution becoming costly to all parties involved. 3D modelling the pipes is essential to avoid conflicts during the MEP coordination process and provide data for the digital twin models.
Models should include roof drains, floor drains, sinks, clean outs, water heaters, plumbing fixtures, and sewerage ejector pits.
Models should include FP piping, major equipment, Backflow preventer, Wet alarm valve, Dry alarm valve, Air compressors and Floor control valve.
Models should include electrical conduits 1 ½” and larger, or any smaller conduits grouped together, also Include long sweep elbows to electric rooms (distribution panels) and 3D Model the cable trays (if applicable) In addition to switch gears, transformers and showing all floor boxes and lighting fixtures.
Sometimes we think of the handover process as the final phase of the project lifecycle, but it is the beginning for the building owner and users. The advantage of an effective digital twin model is that it’s a complete guidebook with all the geometric representations of services and O&M catalog data. Delivering data in an interface that is user-friendly, comprehensive, and accurate can bridge the gap between close-out and operations while enhancing the owner experience, building performance, and ultimately the well-being of the space users. Invest in the detailed BIM data that’s evolved throughout the project lifecycle to create a digital twin to support facilities management.