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Digital twins and open BIM: Technological innovation for the quality of construction

Catenda Team

The construction industry is not exempt from the impact of data processing, visualization, and utilization. Since each project requires the involvement of several key players from different core businesses, communication remains a major challenge to ensure successful outcomes. Thus, to address this issue, SwissBIM teams decided to use digital twins as a new way of modelling construction data in conjunction with open BIM tools, enabling them to sustain the performance throughout the project lifecycle from design to operation.

In what ways can the combination of these two technologies enhance efficiency and guarantee optimal quality?

What is digital twin technology? Definition and Impact

Digital twins are digital representations or virtual 3D replicas of a building or physical infrastructure, generated from real-time data and BIM (building information modeling) models. Digital twin technology offers many benefits such as reduced construction costs and time, better planning and coordination between different teams, and improved visualization and simulation.

Many construction projects have already benefited from the application of digital twins, such as the construction of Tottenham Hotspur football stadium in England and Beijing Daxing International Airport in China. In the case of the airport, the digital twin enables the simulation of passenger movements and security procedures, resulting in the optimization of the airport’s layout and reducing wait times for travellers.

SwissBIM deploys this approach on all of their projects throughout different life cycles. The digital twin is used in the design, implementation and operation phases of a project. As a result, the processes are iterative. With more than 20 new projects per year, it is necessary to work on structuring the data in an almost industrial way.

Open BIM: Because openness is the way forward for construction companies

open BIM is a collaborative approach resulting from a buildingSMART initiative, which facilitates data interoperability and communication among diverse stakeholders involved in a construction project using open standards such as IFC and BCF throughout different project’s life cycles. Applying IFC brings several benefits such as enhanced collaboration and coordination between construction teams, reduced design errors and conflicts, and improved energy efficiency and construction costs. What are the 5 reasons to use open BIM? Read the full article here.

SwissBIM uses open BIM on more than 50% of its projects. Exchanges are always carried out using the open standards IFC and BCF, although the tools used work with proprietary formats.

By adopting the open BIM in the construction project, the energy impact could be reduced, the construction costs would be controlled, and the quality of the building/infrastructure would be guaranteed.

For the State of Geneva project, SwissBIM has implemented an open data/information exchange process, enabling project members to communicate and collaborate using the open standards IFC and BCF.

The IFC format (Industry Foundation Classes) is an interoperable format that enables the visualization of digital models, facilitating interoperability between software applications.

The BCF (BIM Collaboration Format) allows the exchange of comments and the sharing of information and ideas between the different stakeholders. Read more here.

As a result, the contractors responsible for the transformation projects and the operations department are able to feed their tools in real time, working specifically on openBIM data such as the IFC format.

Digital twins and open BIM: a synergy to improve construction quality

By combining digital twins and open BIM, industry professionals can work efficiently and achieve spectacular results in terms of improved construction quality and trade. With digital twins, a building can be virtually replicated in 3D, collecting all necessary data for accurate and consistent design. At the same time, open BIM facilitates efficient communication between project stakeholders, ensuring transparent information sharing.

The choice to use open BIM processes and formats is highly strategic with the aim of ensuring maximum interoperability between all the tools used by different project members. Thanks to the IFC format, all project members can visualize their models in the best way. The digital models and digital twins are updated without any constraints, regardless of the modelling software. This means that they are not dependent on proprietary formats.

Dylan Martins, Director SwissBIM

Challenges to be met for a widespread adoption of digital twins and open BIM in construction

Although the use of open BIM and digital twins offers many benefits, there are issues that may hinder their widespread adoption in the sector. One of the main issues is the resistance to change. Professionals may be reluctant to adopt new technologies, fearing that it could disrupt their usual way of working. How can BIM be implemented in teams?

In recent years, SwissBIM has ensured that its employees are well-trained and aware of open BIM through continuous training. Specifically, 20 employees and engineers from the modelling, coordination, and BIM management teams have been trained in the use of open formats.

Choosing the right BIM platform is also important for the firm to make informed decisions and meet their needs. Moreover, it is crucial to facilitate interoperability between the different tools and BIM software used in the construction sector. Open data standards ensure better compatibility.

How can Digital twins technology and open BIM be a winning combo for the construction industry?

Digital twins and open BIM have the potential to revolutionize the way buildings and infrastructure are designed. By using digital models to simulate the performance and behavior of modelled structures, construction professionals such as SwissBIM can optimize costs, improve efficiency and reduce risks, under the prism of a well-established green transition.

Marco Mari, Co-Founder SwissBIM

About SwissBIM

Swissbim is a spin-off of Idessin, a construction firm that has been active in Geneva for over 20 years, particularly active in architectural and technical modelling. In 2015, they created two sister companies dedicated to the digitalization of the construction industry.

Currently, there are three firms operating throughout French-speaking Switzerland. Idessin specializes in BIM modelling by trade, while Scanways provides 3D measurement and scanning services for built assets. SwissBIM, on the other hand, has the main focus on assisting all construction stakeholders in their digital transformation, whether it be for their internal teams or on a project basis. To achieve this, SwissBIM has developed customized powerful tools and training programs for this purpose.