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Digital twin technology in buildings: three examples from the field

Building Automation
20 April 2022
Office building
A digital twin is a digital copy of an object, process or service. A digital twin of your building helps you predict and optimize building management, maintenance and energy consumption. In this blog, you will learn all about digital twin technology and we give a number of examples from the field demonstrating the use of this technology in buildings.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is exactly as the words describe: it is software that creates simulations using data from the real world. Sensors attached to physical products collect data and send the data to the digital twin. These are combined with data on environmental factors (location, climate, temperature, etc.) and analyses of incidents, for instance.

Definition of a digital twin

Because a digital twin collects real-time data, the model changes in line with reality. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the system is also self-learning. A digital twin reflects the real-world situation, therefore, it can also make predictions. In short:

A digital twin is an exact and dynamic digital copy of reality which is fed real-time data from the real world to understand and respond to the status of an existing object or system.

Some 20 years ago, NASA was one of the first organizations to use digital twins. Digital twin technology has also been successfully used in industry for years because it infallibly provides insight into the patterns and deviations in a product or production process. This information can be used to align separate process phases with each other seamlessly and, for instance, to predict maintenance requirements. This optimizes the process, making it quicker, more efficient, and with fewer failure costs.

Digital twin software for buildings

With the rise of technological developments like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence, digital twins have become an important part of modern engineering, specifically in improving performance. This is certainly also true of digital twin technology in buildings and architecture. Digital twin software also takes into account the dynamics of reality, and as such, goes further than (static) 3D drawings like BIM. In the built environment, digital twins can play a key role in the enormous challenges facing us, by increasing efficiency, improving energy performance, and creating a more comfortable environment for people.

Priva’s vision on digital twin technology

Priva is responding to this trend by increasingly integrating data-driven actions and digital twin technologies in its systems. ecoBuilding - currently still under the supervision of our Priva Lab for Innovation (Lin) - is a good example of this. Using digital twin technology and artificial intelligence, ecoBuilding predicts the energy needed to achieve the optimal indoor climate. In doing this, the digital twin model takes into account the weather forecast, the use of the building, the generation and storage of heat and sustainable energy, and flexible energy prices. This saves money and energy and reduces the building’s carbon emissions.

Digital twin examples in buildings

Digital twin technology is not yet being used in buildings on a large scale, but the development is moving quickly and the opportunities are enormous. Below are three digital twin examples describing how Priva is using digital twin technology in buildings:

1. Digital twin software for energy saving and an optimal indoor climate

The digital twin software of ecoBuilding is already being used in practice to create a virtual copy of a complete building management system and the related energy flows. The digital twin then learns how energy is produced, distributed and used (or stored) in the building. This learning capacity and smart models are used to accurately predict how much energy is needed for a perfectly balanced indoor climate. For instance, in a pilot project on the campus of the Avans Hogeschool in ’s-Hertogenbosch, ecoBuilding produced a saving of almost 40% on gas consumption while also improving the indoor climate.

2. Digital twin building technology for simulating the energy grid

Digital twin technology can also be used to predict a building’s energy use and energy storage and optimize these in the design phase already. For Hager Nederland, a simulation was created that shows what will happen with the energy flows in their future office building if an energy storage system is to be added. This shows clear differences in the peak loads and possibilities for optimizing energy use. These insights improve the energy efficiency of the building and prepares it for connection to the local grid.

3. Digital twin technology as the basis for a smart building

Digital twin technology can also be used to create a virtual model of the entire building, in which all rooms, energy flows and smart systems or devices are logically connected with each other. This gives rise to an entirely smart building. In a smart building, the technology is tailored completely to the users and activities in the building. The building in fact thinks along with the user, for optimal comfort and optimal use of space and energy.

Ready for the future with Priva

The future of digital twins is nearly without limits. Because digital twins learn, they constantly develop new skills and possibilities and generate new insights that can be used to make products better and processes more efficient.

Interested in finding out how we can improve your building’s performance with our data-driven and cloud-based Priva Digital Services? Want to find out how we can use digital twin technology to make your building automation better, healthier, smarter and more future-proof?

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Cesar Salaverria

Sales Account Manager Horticulture

Cesar Salaverria