The transit-oriented development in Dubai ... WS Atkins & Partners Overseas leveraged digital twin technology.

New technologies have propelled the Middle East’s construction industry toward consistent growth, paving the way for opportunities to make the work processes and related costs more efficient and effective.

In a region that is home to some of the world’s most iconic buildings and other infrastructures, the adoption of advanced technological innovations is quickly gaining momentum. This trend is expected to strengthen further in the Middle East countries with aggressive digital transformation strategies.      

The rising rollout of building information modelling (BIM) is proof that the regional construction sector is now going digital. Embracing BIM methodologies has aided many project teams in meeting delivery schedules and better managing design information across the entire project lifecycle. The BIM process must be capable of enhancing design visualisation, digital collaboration, and building systems coordination and analysis – all of which are vital to constructing world-class buildings.

In every aspect of life in a post-Covid world, going digital is the mantra of survival. In our quest to build infrastructures for future generations, governments across the Middle East and the world have specifically emphasised the need of going digital in their long-term visions.

Advancing the construction industry from BIM and adopting digital twin technology is important because it will save costs and ensure on-time project delivery. Digital twin technology will open new possibilities that will enhance construction processes beginning at the engineering stage and ending at project completion. Going digital ties in the value of collaborating among stakeholders, along with providing visibility into the progress of construction, ensuring safer worksite conditions, and mitigating risk and reducing carbon footprint.

Digital twins are generating a lot of buzz within the construction community. As with BIM when it was introduced some 20 years ago, the idea behind digital twins is to increase design visibility, closely monitor assets and resources, and keep stakeholders updated.      

Digital twins, which connect the physical and virtual worlds, work by acting as detailed digital representations of physical assets. As such, they change if physical assets are modified. This connection results in greater visibility and a more synchronised workflow, allowing companies to save time and effort. Through digital twins, project teams are also empowered to make and timely implement data-driven decisions with positive effects on the lifecycle of assets. 

 

Merging of technologies

A digital twin is created by merging 3D/4D visualisation, reality modelling, mixed reality, and geotechnical engineering technologies. It allows real-time insights that are able to deliver greater value to projects apart from enabling real-time monitoring of physical assets and helping ensure the attainment of desired business outcomes.

The design phase marks the beginning of the digital twin creation. Collected data during this stage, including engineering details, is used further in the construction and operations of digital twins. While live data might be limited at this stage, digital twin workflows aid in developing optimised designs and facilitating collaboration across design and engineering teams.

Digital twins complement BIM solutions in that the former takes the use of collaborative data models to the next level. People already implementing BIM workflows may find it easier to take the next step and transition to digital twins.

 

Bentley iTwin Platform

From beginning to end, a digital twin delivers enormous benefits. The Bentley iTwin Platform is one of the key offerings in the Middle East that enables digital twins throughout the lifecycle of an infrastructure asset. Powered by iTwin, the platform provides a set of cloud services that enables organisations to create, visualise, and analyse digital twins.

Prior to construction, project teams using iTwin Services can use design insights to gain analytical visibility into their work, simulate logistics, understand implications of design decisions on project costs, manage workflows, and improve collaboration.

This process is further augmented using purpose-built construction management solutions such as the Synchro Construction suite, Bentley’s construction platform that is powered by iTwin. Synchro adds more workflow benefits throughout the construction process.

For example, the suite enables a firm to take design models and reality models and create construction 4D/5D digital twins. This is a key step in transforming workflows by allowing for model-based planning with real-time progress updates from the field, automation of execution, and the capture of real-time compliance and performance tasks. All these capabilities result in better and faster decision-making with a positive impact on cost-savings, on-time project delivery and project quality.

By leveraging Synchro Construction suite, teams can manage project schedules, track progress, and measure other key performance indicators (KPIs) attached to the asset. Additionally, the suite can help predict potential obstacles and project risks, which further reinforces the project’s performance.

Other benefits of deploying Synchro with the iTwin platform include reduced time for projects, resulting in lower costs for the owner; quick performance of construction sequences and simulations for error detection and resolution, even before construction begins; and significant reduction on production costs and lowered project costs, all while accessing the entire project data and detailed information of an asset throughout the project lifecycle.

The technology also contains features that can provide project analytics before going on a job site, in addition to delivering real-time data and project monitoring with visualised context. 

 

Early adoption stage

Admittedly, digital twin technology in construction is still at the early adoption stage. In Dubai, government and private sector entities have already begun embracing the concept. 

For instance, WS Atkins & Partners Overseas leveraged digital twins for innovation when designing an underground rail station for Dubai’s Green and Red metro lines near an existing shopping mall. The $2.9-billion transit-oriented development sought to reduce roadway congestion, boost sales, and separate the flow of shoppers from daily commuters. Initially, the company used Autodesk, but when it found that it was insufficient for delivering its BIM vision, it deployed Bentley software. WS Atkins overcame site constraints with MicroStation’s parametric modelling capabilities. It solved the station’s complex interface geometry, thus eliminating on-site measuring. Accurate quantity estimations reduced construction waste by 45 per cent and material waste by 65 per cent. Further, its multidiscipline team was able to share over 100 files of varying formats, thereby enhancing collaboration and enabling the delivery of the design one month early.

Amid an increasingly technology-driven mindset, ushered in by the global pandemic, greater opportunities for deployment of BIM and digital twins have continuously been opening up. Changing market dynamics and shifting perspectives will create immense prospects for construction technology solution providers in the years to come, and digital twins can be instrumental in moving the construction industry forward in this century.