The Covid-19 pandemic and climate breakdown has changed the way people use and interact with buildings; changes in people’s behaviour can have a significant impact on a building’s overall performance. City Science led this industrial research project to embed all the RIBA design stages into improving operational performance. We applied digital twinning technology to elevate Building Information Models (BIM), so operations teams can simulate or tract human usage and energy demands to build a live heat map. The project - RIBA to Reality - was centred around two buildings as a real-world testbed with the aim of making them carbon neutral buildings of the future.
Poor operation of complex Building Management Systems (BMS) can lead to poor building performance, particularly if only one or two team members know how to use the BMS and run the building properly. A lack of skilled members and turnover of staff can create a knowledge risk which can result in building performance plummeting, which is challenging to get back on track. These teams also have limited bandwidth to adopt new systems or adapt operations to new user behaviours. Without enough understanding around how people use and interact with a building, it ends up performing below expectations. This is becoming a significant issue as buildings need to be net zero. When buildings are managed as a system (e.g. a university estate), this issue is compounded further.
Our RIBA to Reality project takes learnings from existing buildings and their usage, to inform new building operation and monitoring. It blends the RIBA Stages with digital technologies, to create a digital twin that can be paired to its real-world counterpart. The digital-twin of a real world asset allows for the asset to meet the final development standards and increases operational efficiencies. These digital-twins will take into account the behaviours of building occupants, local surroundings and environment. This allows estate managers to monitor and model the whole-life performance of their buildings in real-time, to increase efficiency and productivity for the building’s stakeholders.
Our project advances the use of digital technologies, including BIM, sensors, data analytics and smart systems, to pair a digital system to its real-world counterpart. This will enable live monitoring and modelling of human and energy usage across a building or whole campus of buildings. It will create a heap map for operations teams to make decisions about where they can improve efficiency. The solution starts with the RIBA Stages, which cover everything from transport assessment, design, handover, operation and use. The digital twin pairing (including data sharing tools for different platforms and accurate people and behaviour detection) will provide real-time energy modelling to increase efficiency.
By following the established RIBA Stages and using a digital twin of a real-world asset to ensure the final development meets the original design specifications, some of the principal flaws of construction can be avoided - such as unknown materials, poor installations, inadequate handover, and poorly managed building operation.