At Digital Node we work with a variety of differing clients all over the world to support their future requirements in BIM and Digital Engineering. It is important that we keep them up to speed with the important digital developments, such as the work around Digital Twins.

Some of our upcoming projects include not only BIM requirements and education around how to implement BIM, but also educating clients on what comes next for the future of our industry. This includes how we use data to effectively support the way we design, build and manage assets. 

It is important to draw synergies between design, build and manage, plus how we map BIM and smart cities to the relationship. Looking to the future is not easy but keeping up to date with industry drivers and innovations through groups such as the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) is essential.

As the home for the Digital Built Britain and BIM Policies, CDBB is one entity that should be watched carefully by those who work in construction. It supports not only the UK, but also any other sectors looking to transform the way they plan, build, maintain and use our social and economic infrastructure for the future.  

Digital Twin is a relatively new term for many in the construction industry, but across other industries the term has been used for some time. The beginning of the term Digital Twin was coined as far back as the 1990s where work was undertaken at Yale University to develop and support something called ‘mirror worlds’ – the relationship between the physical and digital worlds.

Industries which have been working relentlessly to support these processes are obviously those who adopted innovative approaches to the way they designed, maintained and used their assets. Industries such as aerospace, aviation and manufacturing are some of those examples, where having digital replicas or mirrors of elements allowed for greater design, accessibility and even safety for those who worked in these fields.  

It is only now that we can enforce these principles of Digital Twins as we have the digital capability to do so and the gusto and interest in construction to achieve it. Having said this, having the structure, the authority and even secure arrangements around how we digitally link elements (not just buildings and infrastructure but any physical element) to each other requires a framework around it as well as guidance in place. 

The CDBB’s Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) continues to work across this space, supporting the development of the Information Management Framework for the adoption of the National Digital Twin (NDT). The first step however is having an understanding of the values which will enable digital twins across our sector. These values can be found in the form of the Gemini Principles

The Gemini Principles were first published in 2018 and act as the foundation of how we could possibly deliver a NDT in the UK with consistent values and processes put in place. The Gemini Principles are globally recognised and often resourced in other government reports across the world with the work they do around linking digital assets with the physical environment.

The Gemini principles state that by connecting Digital Twins to create a National Digital Twin (NDT), this will unlock extra value to industry as a whole and to develop Gemini-compliant Digital Twins. The Gemini Principles also state that a Digital Twin must represent physical reality at a level of accuracy suited to its purpose.

The Gemini Principles were supported by two other pieces of work: the Information Management Roadmap and  the Pathway Towards an Information Management Framework: A Commons for a Digital Built Britain. All three pieces of work are linked to support the development of the NDT in the UK, and work toward supporting a harmonious and safe response to how we link Digital Twins and our built environment assets. 

This piece of work is underway by CDBB and is linked very closely to the BIM Policy and Smart City Agenda (and standards) to support digital construction in the UK. As a result of this we are certainly on our way to supporting requirements for a NDT and a Digital Built Britain, but there is still much work to be undertaken.

Groups such as the UK BIM Alliance and other industry groups supporting skills growth and resources are working hard to aid the industry in its adoption of BIM, but there is far more work to achieve when it comes to having an overall and common (consistent) framework as to how we work with Digital Twins.

Following guidance and standards is one way, and we must work as an industry, not only in the UK but on a global scale, to enable greater productivity and shared resources for these purposes.

Rebecca De Cicco
Founder and Director, Digital Node