Surprising and Innovative Applications for Digital Twins

Surprising and Innovative Applications for Digital Twins

March 22, 2024
Surprising and Innovative Applications for Digital Twins

Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical objects or processes. In construction, these digital models can accurately test and analyze data such as measurements, project requirements, and cost estimates. These data points are stored in common data environments (CDEs) where construction leaders can gain insights about projects and create safer, more streamlined environments. 

In construction, specifically, digital twins have a variety of surprising applications. From the innovative design of buildings to better material manufacturing, learn how digital twins can revolutionize the construction industry.

Designing More Environmentally Resilient Structures 

During architectural planning, designers can use digital reconstructions to create more resilient buildings. The ability to virtually test the impact of various events, such as extreme weather or security breaches, allows for the manipulation of the design to produce the best results. Architects, engineers, and project teams can simulate and optimize various aspects like sun exposure, wind resistance, and energy efficiency. 

Resilient design is important for the sustainability and longevity of materials and builds. Engineers can test the durability of construction by using digital models of structures that use different materials for foundations or integrate alternative power sources. Incorporating tech into this initiative is the best way to for engineers visualize designs, predict resilience, and track actual impact. 

Optimizing Emergency Planning 

Beyond sustainability, a virtual rendering of physical buildings can give insight into layout, infrastructure, and occupancy restrictions. These digital twins can simulate evacuation scenarios for various emergency events, calling attention to factors like exit locations, stairwells, and safe zones. Visualizing emergency plans like this can help streamline escape routes and increase the probability of employees and visitors making it out of buildings during adverse events. 

Digital models can also facilitate easier emergency response and recovery. During the event, real-time data from sensors can be overlaid on the virtual replicas to assess damage and identify potentially dangerous areas. Building owners can have a bird’s eye view of where exactly issues are occurring by locating sensors, such as smoke detectors during a fire or structural health monitors during an earthquake. After the event, mitigation teams can use this data to allocate resources effectively and resume normal operations as soon as possible.

Developing Stronger Concrete 

Concrete is a prominent building material that can be enhanced using digital twins. Virtual models allow manufacturers and construction professionals to simulate various concrete formulations and adjust for optimal performance based on each project. They can tweak models according to tests using different concrete mixtures. 

Next-gen concretes can be modeled digitally, testing them up against project-specific factors like heavy service loads or extreme weather conditions. These models in conjunction with machine learning analysis can give construction teams a better idea of what concrete to use for the best results.

Trending concrete finishes, like exposed aggregate or broom finish, are another way to manipulate the endurance of the concrete itself. You can virtually test the type of concrete mixed with the way it is finished for optimal performance across various conditions. Choosing the right concrete, regardless of trend or tradition, allows construction professionals to get the most out of their budget. Concrete estimating software helps calculate the costs and benefits of using certain types of concrete for various projects, and digital modeling solidifies the concrete’s feasibility.

Streamlining Steel Manufacturing

Similarly, steel and other metal manufacturers can use digital twins to optimize their processes. By simulating metal production, they can improve yield sizes and reduce the probability of defects. This can also allow for better operator training reducing the chance of workplace injuries or costly repairs. 

When estimating steel costs, the addition of digital models can enable construction teams and manufacturers, alike, to make informed decisions based on industry pricing, project requirements, and the costs of elements — ultimately saving money and time.

Enhancing Supply Chain Management 

The supply chain involves many moving parts, and the efficacy of construction projects relies heavily on the accuracy and timeliness of those moving parts. Digital twins can revolutionize supply chain management in construction, particularly by providing quantity surveyors with real-time data. The Internet of Things (IoT) is still prominent here, allowing sensors to be integrated into digital models and reveal bottlenecks and challenges that may be slowing down processes. 

For example, 3D models can more accurately predict inventory needs based on space and historical data. Using digital twins in tandem with construction takeoff software allows quantity surveyors to have a holistic picture of material availability, lead times, and inventory levels. This collaborative, cloud-based space ensures data is managed swiftly, securely, and accurately. Risks can be detected and mitigated, contracts can be drawn based on data, and all team members have access to tangible reports of what’s going on in the pipeline at all times.

Generating More Accurate Cost Estimates 

For every aspect of construction projects, it’s important to accurately estimate costs. Construction takeoff software for cost estimators can be used in conjunction with digital models of real-world spaces, objects, and infrastructure. This allows finance professionals and contractors to estimate construction costs more accurately by harnessing actual collected data to determine the type and volume of materials they need. This not only speeds up the cost estimation process but minimizes errors by using 3D blueprints to calculate the exact dimensions and quantities needed.  

The Future of Digital Twins 

Current and future applications of digital twins hold immense promise for the construction industry. These virtual models can replicate physical assets and processes, revolutionizing project management, supply chain collaboration, and decision-making. 

Innovations for the near future include human digital twins, replicating a specific person’s personality traits and predicted behaviors. This can even further optimize resource allocation, safety protocols, training programs, and communication within construction teams. 

These digital twins of people, structures, and processes will soon translate into immersive environments. An integration with extended reality is nigh, allowing digital models to become augmented or virtual reality environments that construction professionals can “step” into and work on at a 1:1 scale. This can enhance the visualization of projects to an almost unimaginable degree. 

Digital twins are clearly on the track to empowering the construction industry and changing the way the built environment is planned, constructed, and maintained for the foreseeable future.

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