AU Focus: Digital Twins and Data Strategies for Building Owners

Share this Article

In the early days of Building Information Modeling, it was easy to think of BIM as simply a more advanced form of CAD. But BIM is more than a tool for design—it’s a tool for decision-making. That’s because we can associate any kind of data with a model or component. That means we can take a data-driven approach not only to building design, but to estimation, construction, and operations, too—every stage of the building lifecycle.  

By leveraging BIM data for operations, building owners and facility managers can drive better outcomes for their occupants and their bottom line, according to Nick Stefanidakis of Eptura. “Approximately 80% of the total cost of building ownership occurs in operations after construction post-occupancy,” he says in his AU 2022 Theater talk. “Even a small improvement in operations can have a dramatic impact on the overall lifecycle costs of a facility.” 



If you take that approach to its natural (and technological) conclusion, you’ll get a digital twin—a digital replica of a real-world entity or system that continuously informs and is informed by the real world. For a building, the digital twin can map heating, cooling, power, plumbing, and any other functioning building system. It can track traffic and space usage by people as well as maintenance needs. And with the right data and analytics, it can start to predict problems so that you can avoid downtime. Eventually, a digital twins can even use AI to respond to problems—adjusting temperature and other operational variables automatically in response to input. 

When Autodesk Tandem was launched last year, the focus was on providing owners with contextual access to design and construction data at handover. But that’s really just the beginning. Earlier this year, new facilities monitoring capabilities were released for Tandem, allowing you to track occupancy trends in near real time and visualize historical trends as heat maps on 3D models. This enables you to define relationships between assets, spaces, and systems over time so you can strategize and optimize operations, making your buildings more efficient, more sustainable, and more comfortable. If you haven’t tried Tandem yet, you can sign up for a free account and try the new facility monitoring program in beta.  

Data strategies for business owners was an important topic at AU 2022. Check out these sessions to deepen your understanding and build your skills: 

Getting started 

Learning from leaders 

Architects may have been the first to tap into the possibilities of BIM, with construction professionals following behind. Now it’s the business owners’ turn. As Nick Stefanidakis points out, “These organizations all created tremendous value by closing the loop and building a continuous feedback process between architecture, engineering, construction, and operations, which led to smoother transitions, better design, more efficient operations, reduced costs, and a better experience for their occupants.”