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On 10th March, Lee Chambers, ABC’s Chief Commercial Officer, took part in an international panel discussion on the role of 3D digital twins and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) on the road to the decarbonisation of buildings.

This was part of IIoT World’s Smart Cities & Buildings Day, which brought together subject matter experts, technological pioneers and innovative start-ups to share insights into a range of pressing issues relating to the changing infrastructure landscape in 2022 and beyond.

A holistic approach

Opening his remarks, Lee made clear the challenge which faces us: “If we are going to reach net zero, we have to look at the building as a whole, taking a holistic approach.” The ABC is driven by our belief that constantly pushing for the latest technological development is a critical part of our journey to a carbon-neutral construction industry.

As the discussion made clear, our work with partners such as UrsaLeo is a case in point. A technology company based in San Francisco, UrsaLeo offers an immersive 3D platform that combines digital twin technology with real-time and historical data from IoT streams, document management, maintenance and other enterprise systems. A digital twin is a visual representation of a physical site or data set which allows for in-depth and accurate data analysis, and is forming an increasing part of the ABC’s work. We are developing solutions to provide greater insight into energy usage and generation opportunities and building performance, across all points in the construction lifecycle.

As Lee explained, creating digital twin simulations from existing and proposed projects allows us to compare simulations with actual data, helping develop retrofit strategies and, post-refurbishment, support gap analysis. The technology will also provide a global view rather than a simple property-by-property view, meaning we can think in terms of community systems as well as building systems.

Decentralisation is key

During his panel, Lee emphasised the potential of decentralising energy, and spoke about how the ABC is working towards being able to visualise, record and tokenise energy through digital twin technology. This can help incentivise investment in renewables by increasing the tangible, financial benefits for consumers.

To reach net zero, we need to develop strategies that enable migration away from fossil fuels as soon as possible. The solution is smart, integrated, dynamic, decentralised energy management systems which will support the estimated 40% increase in electrical demand because of electrification of heating and transport.

The ABC is developing strategies which maximise self-consumption at the housing estate level, reducing reliance on the grid whilst facilitating community-wide energy independence. The use of 3D digital twin technology plays an integral role in the implementation of these strategies, meaning we can more effectively and efficiently develop designs, plans and estimates for construction projects while avoiding surprises and delays. This streamlined process minimises risk for construction companies and consequently incentivises consumers to invest in larger PV arrays and maximise generation within communities without causing issues for the DNOs.

Crucially – as Lee noted – consumers are increasingly engaged in the journey to net zero and a low-carbon future. This is why we are focused on ensuring the scalability of our services and technologies. We have applied our tools and methodology at all levels, from single dwellings and housing estates to distribution centres and science parks. 3D digital twin technology is fundamental in our ability to achieve this.  It allows us to identify the opportunities to reduce demand and decarbonise buildings through the visualisation of data points in 3D model. This has drastically improved the ABC’s ability to tailor our services to a range of consumers, increasing the viability of net-zero construction to the wider built environment sector.

Exciting potential

3D digital twin technology is a game-changer for the construction industry. As shown by the panel, and the Smart Cities and Buildings Day more broadly, builders, consumers and investors can all benefit from its use in the sector. The ABC is at the cutting edge, ensuring the technology’s full value is implemented at every stage of the construction process.