eDigiT2Life

A digital twin to improve a building's performance while it's in operation.

Last updated: 25th November 2021

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Liam Winder
Project number: 105871
UKRI funding: £850,835

Website:
iesve.com/


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Summary

Digital twins help visualise data and understand how a building performs compared with how it's been designed. They can then be used to identify the steps that can improve performance during the design-construct-commission process. The eDigit2Life project, led by IES, has developed an approach that uses digital twins through the entire lifecycle of a building - so not just at design or construction phase, but while the building is in operation and right through to end of life decision support. It provides insights into actionable ways to improve the building's operation while at the same time reducing carbon emissions. The eDigit2Life consortium has tested this approach with the University of Glasgow across much of its campus, allowing the estate team to make more informed decisions about how to manage the buildings more effectively; reduce the carbon footprint of the campus overall; and transition the estate towards net zero carbon.

Innovation type: Digital
Organisation type: Innovative SME, Research centre

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Project pioneers

IES Ltd is widely regarded as a world leader in intelligent sustainability solutions for the built environment. For the last 25 years, it has combined data, technology, analytics and consultancy to help clients and contractors make more sustainable decisions.

The problem

New buildings are being developed with building management systems (BMS) from the outset. These monitor temperature and airflow to provide predictive data and insights on a buildings performance. However they often don't include the ability to track and analyse how buildings perform in regards to energy savings, usability, comfort and air quality.  This inability to track this kinds of data, means facilities team often don’t consider how a building should be performing with respect to its design intent or how energy and comfort might be conflicting with each other (e.g. NZEB). For example, buildings are typically operated for comfort based on user feedback but this can neglect the specific energy target that has been set.  In overlooking the original design intent of the building, or how it is performing with respect to both energy and comfort, current BMS don't offer energy managers, or indeed users, a complete picture of the whole-life performance of a building.   

Vision

Through the eDigit2Life project, IES has developed a digital twin that can optimise whole-life performance by combining data collected inside and outside the building with ongoing user feedback throughout its whole lifecycle. This approach will give building owners and operators a complete view of a building's performance, including the end impact as the building reaches end of life. As well as allowing designers, contractors and asset managers to improve the performance of a building, it will anticipate future sensing hardware of our new buildings allowing streamlined and automated calibration of compliance models as well as planning future decarbonisation strategies to reach net zero targets.  The digital twin also enables the building occupants to become active participants of their building through public dashboards informing them of how the building is being operated with respect to both energy and comfort and asking them to take actions or tolerate comfort conditions to ensure better energy performance.

Key Insight

When University of Glasgow wanted to organise its estate and infrastructure to reduce its carbon footprint and minimise harm to the environment, it presented the perfect opportunity to trial IES's new modelling approach. Support from the Transforming Construction Challenge allowed the partners to use the eDigiT2Life project to develop new innovative technologies to understand how the buildings are performing; create decarbonisation roadmaps for existing buildings; and ensure the new buildings that are part of the £1bn investment to the smart campus would be designed, constructed and commissioned to the highest potential with respect to energy and comfort.  

First step

IES and University of Glasgow trialled the eDigit2Life approach on a large part of the campus, including the James McCune Smith Learning Hub, the University Library, the Boyd Orr Centre and the School of Mathematics and Statistics. It allowed the estate team to quickly identify and understand how the campus buildings were performing, make informed decisions on how to manage them effectively, reduce the carbon footprint of the campus overall, and transition the estate towards net zero carbon. 

Barrier

Digital twins are helping the industry better predict a building's performance as it is constructed. However, to ensure buildings deliver on their whole-life potential, energy or facilities managers need to be able to model and track an asset throughout its lifecycle, measure and verify its performance and understand what decisions can be made with accuracy on how to improve its ongoing performance. That's the aim of the eDigiT2Life project.

Digital Innovation

eDigiT2Life is an approach with multiple phases that together deliver a whole-life, full lifecycle digital twin. The stages include:

  • Developing a fortified dynamic simulation model (DSM) of buildings at design stage, that anticipate enhanced sensing and metering infrastructure during building operation.
  • Developing a methodology to calibrate the design stage compliance models of buildings to be used during handover, commissioning and initial operation phase of buildings (i.e. post-occupancy evaluation).
  • Developing the analysis capabilities of the operational design twin as an evolution of the calibrated DSM.
  • Developing the back-end (ICT software and hardware architecture including field, edge and cloud interconnections) and front-end (including immersive dashboards and innovative lab interfaces) of the operational digital twin.
  • Developing energy services based on the functionalities of the digital twin that include energy, comfort and flexibility optimization, predictive maintenance and M&V (Measuring & Verification) and incorporate the functionality of hosting third party energy or non-energy services (e.g. energy trading, electric vehicles charging, space optimisation).
  • Trialing the methodology and assessing the business model's effectiveness in two newly constructed buildings under different phases of construction; engaging with end-users, building designers and contractors, the construction oriented business generally, the local and the academic community.

Within the eDigit2Life approach, a number of tools have been developed to aid automation as it goes through the construction lifecycle. These include:

  • optimisation algorithms that incorporate building physics (or physics intelligence)
  • Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence approaches to optimise energy and comfort together
  • automated fault detection of where the building is not performing compared to its design intent
  • monitoring of energy conservation measures
  • demand response and flexibility methods to optimise self-consumption and renewable generation
  • sensors and user feedback tools which are deployed across the buildings and campus to create an accurate picture of the various environments throughout the buildings

Collaborators

IES drew on support from all parts of the construction lifecycle supply chain. HLM came in as architect in the early planning and initial design stages. Multiplex was the delivery partner for construction and commissioning. University of Glasgow was not only the client but the occupant of the buildings. ScienceScope was the technology partner who provided the future monitoring equipment and architecture to feed the Digital Twin to enable monitoring the building performance in-use. The project will benefit each partner involved. IES will incorporate the final solution in its ICL platform, creating new solutions for performance Digital Twins for buildings, this will be coupled with a new range of IoT devices developed by ScienceScope to further enhance the capabilities of the Digital Twin in operation. HLM and Multiplex will be able to offer added value to their clients past the design stage of new buildings.

  • HLM
  • IES Ltd
  • Multiplex
  • ScienceScope
  • University of Glasgow

Lead support

Transforming Construction supported the trial. Letters of support were also provided by the Active Building Centre and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

Long Term Vision

The long-term vision is to roll out the Digital Twin approach to any new building that must undergo compliance modelling and encourage the design and delivery teams to create a Digital Asset to be sold to the final building owner. In parallel, all buildings constructed in the last 5 years that have a compliance model available, will also be contacted to see if they wish to have their model resurrected and upgraded to a performance Digital Twin for ongoing Measurement and Targeting. IES will be able to target all buildings that have been modelled by our in-house consultancy teams but also engage with any of our customers who purchase our software to design new buildings. As such, the opportunity to scale-up this technology to a considerable number of buildings is significant.

Human Stories

Energy or facilities managers will be able to do their jobs more effectively, as the digital twin will provide them with accurate and predictive data from which they can make more informed decisions on how to improve a buildings performance. This information during the life of a building will ensure that it continues to meet the needs of its users and will also ensure the environmental impact of the building is minimised.

Powerful Processes

eDigiT2Life can optimise whole-life performance by combining data collected inside and outside the building with ongoing user feedback throughout its whole lifecycle. The approach evolves from an enhanced compliance model at design stage, to a calibrated model at handover, and then a complete digital twin at commissioning stage. It essentially creates a virtual representation of a real building at any point in time, using data from sensors and meters in the building. It uses physics intelligence, AI and Machine Learning to assure the accuracy of the model.

Fascinating Facts

IES has proven that the performance of the Digital Twin can be as good as 2% deviation from the actual buildings performance. 90% or our time is spent indoors. 96% of Generation Y employees are concerned about the environment and expect their employers to take steps towards becoming more sustainable. Employees in green-certified buildings showed 26% higher cognitive function test scores and 30% fewer sick building symptoms versus non-certified. As such, through optimisation of energy and IEQ, better health and well-being of the building occupants can be assured, this leads to improved productivity of staff, less sick days, higher levels of concentration from students etc.

Benefits

Assurance
The eDigit2Life Digital Twin creates a virtual representation of the real building at any point in time, using data from sensors and meters in the building. It uses physics intelligence, AI and Machine Learning to assure the accuracy of the model. IES has proven that the performance of the Digital Twin can be as good as 2% deviation from the actual buildings performance.

Collaboration
Important collaborations across teams and services within the University was key to the success of this project. Despite the University being the owner of the buildings and having a dedicated energy manager, access to the data within the BMS was not always easy on this project, and new systems that were advertised as being open protocol or open access were not as easy to connect to as anticipated.  The project team therefore had to develop good interactions and communications with the IT department and sub-contractors to explain what the University was trying to achieve and why it should be a priority among all of the other ongoing priorities across the campus.

Emissions
The power of the eDigit2Life Digital Twin is that it is updated right through to the operation phase of the building and is then used for Measurement and Verification and Monitoring and Targeting, once the building is occupied. In this way, the energy manager can ensure that the building is meeting its design objectives with respect to carbon emissions and where deviations occur, corrective actions can be taken immediately. Many buildings do not perform as per their design (some are known to have 3-4 times higher emissions than estimated). This performance gap can be a large contributor to overall carbon emission reductions of our built environment. eDigit2Life ensures that the building performs as it should and that carbon emissions are minimised. This ensures that we achieve a gold standard built environment in reality and not just on paper.

Health
90% or our time is spent indoors. 96% of Generation Y employees are concerned about the environment and expect their employers to take steps towards becoming more sustainable. Employees in green-certified buildings showed 26% higher cognitive function test scores and 30% fewer sick building symptoms versus non-certified. As such, through optimisation of energy and IEQ, better health and well-being of the building occupants can be assured, this leads to improved productivity of staff, less sick days, higher levels of concentration from students etc.