• William Boll

Where is Smart Construction Going?

The construction industry is one of the largest in the world. According to AVEVA Insight, by 2030, it is expected that the volume of construction output will grow by 85% to $15.5 trillion. China, India and the US will all lead the way accounting for 57% of that growth. The construction industry faces four primary challenges:


  • Poor productivity and profitability

  • Project performance (timing and budget issues)

  • Skilled labour shortages

  • Sustainability concerns


A relatively new concept called a digital twin could be the answer to these issues. This technology provides the ability to create virtual replicas of potential and actual physical assets, processes, people, places, systems and devices. There are many compelling reasons why a company would use a digital twin. One such reason is to test new assets before launching them in their real environment to reduce validation expenses and reduce the cost of addressing any problems early in the building cycle. Another reason for invoking a digit twin is to improve safety. Examples of critical safely situation where a virtual environment can help avoid costly and potentially life threatening issues include oil rig safety, production plant efficiency, and commercial building sustainability. An important feature of digital twins worth noting is that they can predict a failure before it happens and can even offer solutions to prevent them from happening at all.

What is Digital Twin technology? A digital twin is essentially a link between a real world object and its digital representation. The digital twin collects data from sensors on physical objects that are updated continuously. This data is used to establish the representation of a virtual object. The word ‘digital twin’ was initially coined by NASA when they built an exact replica of the rockets for astronomers to rehearse. They called this an information mirroring model where the virtual space was an exact replica of the real space which enabled experimentation and simulation. The concept of a digital twin various somewhat by industry =. For example, in automobile engineering it essentially means creating a digital replica of the product and simulate its various scenarios to optimize and gain efficiency. A digital twin is just a real time digitized copy of a physical object with minimal involvement of humans. On the contrary, in healthcare digital twin creation of the human is being attempted for various drug trials which is totally opposite to that of manufacturing because here essentially it becomes all human focused involving emotional, intellectual and physical capabilities.


By bridging the physical and the virtual world, data is transmitted seamlessly allowing the virtual entity to exist simultaneously with the physical entity. Digitalization and automation to fully realize the benefits of a ‘digital twin’ requires sustained top-down and bottom-up leadership and the subsequent language to discuss and prioritize opportunities. A consistent taxonomy to discuss automation and digitalization is missing in the construction industry, often leading to haphazard technological discussions and decision-making. This results in a drifting of company objectives and leadership lockstep. Safety, practicality and sustainability of new buildings is able to be tested within the simulation providing accurate feedback that would mirror the outcome of a test in real life as the data is derived from real-time.

When a construction project has been commissioned, a digital twin can be continuously updated with operational and process data. Knowing an asset’s current state, the digital model uses predictive learning technology to identify failures before they happen and offer solutions about how to prevent them. Artificial intelligence is utilized with advanced process control, control strategy design and process optimization. Necessary variations from process and asset design are incorporated into the engineering asset, enabling a complete and efficient digital value loop.

How Digital Twins are Reimagining the Construction Industry Over the last 50 years, global industries have achieved enormous productivity gains in almost every sector, except construction. With the incorporation building information modeling (BIM), many single purpose models have taken shape. A digital twin unifies information in one validated environment that everybody shares. The idea behind a digital twin is to provide a golden thread that weaves its way from the initial design through the selection of an item, its specification, its manufacture, its delivery to site, its installation and its whole life operation. BIM was introduced almost two decades ago, but unfortunately it didn’t remove inefficiency in the design process, all it did was to digitized it. Digital twins hold the potential to actually change workflows. It’s not designed to replace people or their expertise. It is about enabling construction professionals to do more complex tasks faster and better. By enabling an in depth understanding of a design and optimizing it, digital twins reduce uncertainty, delay and mistakes.

The digital twin concept, paired with wearable and mobile devices on a construction site, can help to better represent the as-built project at any point in time. It allows up-to-date information to be fed back to the field, decreasing the number of errors and the amount of rework.

About nVolve Technologies nVolve Technologies, like many others, has at its heart transformative and massively deployable innovation. We create new technologies and processes to help this industry to transition to a new global economy, one that is shaped by the green, sustainable materials, better-built structures using ordinary labor, decarbonisation, design/architect/build digitization, mass customization, servitisation, greater use of a circular economy methodology and resource efficiency. We operate in the U.S. along with research and development technology partners in Finland. We also have global partnerships with the leading green/eco/sustainable universities and research centers.

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