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Unlocking the Business Benefits of Digital Twins for Building Owners and Operators

This is the second article be sure to read the first

Digital Twin Use Cases for Building Owners and Operators

In this article, we outline the variety of digital twin use cases that can immediately generate added value and provide a positive investment case to owners and operators of buildings and assets. The use cases we describe range from building operations and maintenance to sustainability and energy efficiency, to safety and security, to predictive analytics and data monetization.

By Nicholas D. Evans & Martin Rapos

Digital twins have been described as the biggest opportunity for technology value contribution to physical infrastructure since the personal computer. By 2026, the global digital twin market is expected to grow to $48.2B according to a report by The infrastructure and architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is a big part of this since it spans everything from buildings to bridges, to parking structures, to water and sewer lines, to roadways, and entire cities.

Defining Static and Dynamic Digital Twins

The definitions of digital twins vary and some industry practitioners already consider reality capture, static BIM models, and LiDAR scans as entry-level digital twins. These are often referred to as static digital twins. While these concepts are valuable for the construction and documentation of the as-built state, asset operators need live data, live algorithms, and simulations to augment the digital model. Most importantly they need to be able to plug in multiple technologies from disparate IoT vendors, AI vendors, and other service providers to co-exist seamlessly. These implementations represent the dynamic or live digital twins that end users are most familiar with.

“Digital Twins are the biggest opportunity to improve the overall value contribution of technology to infrastructure since the personal computer. Even with today’s digital twin applications, the opportunities to improve the overall value to the ecosystem are far greater than that of traditional CAD or BIM.” – Keith Bentley, Bentley Systems

The digital twin provider needs to also serve as the master integrator of the different systems and there are multiple test beds and living labs that nationally and internationally support the concept. Once the data is integrated and tagged with precisely georeferenced digital twin endpoints, the key benefit is to be able to view the data through multiple platforms that enable collaboration and on-site data access.

In addition to web portals and on-premise installations, digital twin providers are expected to make data accessible in mobile devices, the latest mixed reality devices such as Magic Leap 2 or Hololens 2, and ubiquitous virtual reality goggles such as Oculus Quest 2.

Business Value for Building Operators

As discussed in “Digital twins are primed to revolutionize the infrastructure industry”, developers of infrastructure assets will be able to partner with digital twin providers and the surrounding ecosystem of service providers to benefit not only from the sale of the physical asset but from the provision of ongoing digital services via the digital twin models. Over time, these subscription-based services could even add up to a significant amount of the original sale price. For example, a real estate project of 100,000 square feet could net $1M in add-on revenues over five years from digital twin-related services. In addition, nearly 80% of an asset’s lifetime value is realized in operations.

The benefits of live digital twins lie in several areas. For example, a standard 100,000 square feet office building in the U.S. typically spends $200,000 on building maintenance annually. When we talk of maintenance, we mean repair, regular replacement, and general maintenance activities. This includes scheduled maintenance to keep mechanical systems in working order, preventive maintenance to upkeep systems before they break down, and actual repairs of the building’s mechanical systems.

Primarily, operators are able to achieve higher control over the facility management resources. The digital twin maintains a virtual representation of all physical systems on both the main dashboard as well as on the mobile devices of the maintenance staff. They can use near-field communications (NFC), for example, to verify a routine check. It allows the facility manager to confirm that an individual checked the working systems and shows which systems have not been checked. This approach results in the ability to use fewer maintenance personnel. A cost reduction of up to $50,000 per year can be achieved in this example office building.

In our previous article, “Digital Twin Use Cases for Building Owners and Operators“, we discussed the broad spectrum of use cases for infrastructure digital twins ranging from building operations and maintenance to sustainability and energy efficiency, to safety and security, to predictive analytics and data monetization.

All these value-added services can be provided by digital twin operators and can be billed to the tenant of our 100,000-square-foot office building example. Using our sample building, an additional $150,000 can be billed to the tenants annually and can be packaged as part of the building operations. This way the building operator could increase the maintenance up to $350,000 and deliver a selection or all of the benefits above, making the building safer, more sustainable, and more resilient.

At a typical digital twin cost for such a building of $20,000 per year, the operator could yield a net value of $1M over 5 years. If you consider that nearly 80% of an asset’s lifetime value is realized in operations, the building operator unlocks a 75% increase in this value stream.

Digital twin providers are software and hardware as-service companies and as such, they tend to give discounts for the ability to bill upfront. An internal rate of return (IRR) calculation of such investment at 30% upfront payment discount for a multi-year contract is at a healthy 285% ($100,000 – 30%, i.e. $70,000 investment into 5 years service agreement unlocks $200,000 of annual boost to the bottom line in building operations). Even if only half of the value was directly realized and the rest would be applied indirectly to differentiate and get a better market position, the IRR would still be at 145%.

These business models and use cases are still evolving, but it’s clear that digital twins represent a powerful addition to the portfolios of building owners and operators.


Press Release AUG 17

Media Contact:

Martin Kocak

AKULAR TWIN achieves Powered by iTwin designation

AKULAR TWIN places gigabytes of fragmented databases into an easily understandable, information-rich picture that’s transparent to all users

McLean, VA – August 17, 2022 – Akular announced the release of AKULAR TWIN, a lightweight app that is built on the Bentley iTwin platform. The app enables users to upload a BIM model during construction or have a BIM model created from the layout of an existing building. It means that everyone from construction workers to facility managers can compare updated versions of the same model, detect clashes, or create and track issues. All this can be done in a real-world overlay through augmented reality, by walking through it in virtual reality, or simply pinching/zooming in 3D on a phone or tablet. All changes are immediately synced back to the platform in real-time. The AKULAR TWIN app met the criteria needed to achieve the “Powered by iTwin” designation, which means that the app meets the same standards as Bentley’s own Powered by iTwin apps.

“Achieving Bentley’s ‘Powered by iTwin’ designation is a massive step forward for Akular,” said CEO Martin Rapos. “For so long now, the real estate and construction sectors have been stuck using last-century technologies, when all other industries are moving forward quickly. Digital twin applications could immediately start saving investors huge amounts of time, money, and materials and make their ESG commitments more achievable. They also provide instant transparency to all stakeholders, which benefits everyone.”

“We celebrate Akular’s milestone of achieving ‘Powered by iTwin’ designation for their AKULAR TWIN app,” said Sheena Gaynes, Director, of Business Development, iTwin Platform, at Bentley Systems. “As an iTwin Partner, Akular contributes to the growing ecosystem of developers building digital twin solutions on the iTwin platform. AKULAR TWIN, Powered by iTwin shows how digital twin technology can increase the performance of buildings by visualizing a variety of building data in AR/VR/3D.”

Caption: The powered by iTwin platform helps Akular users detect collisions and check the clearance between geometric elements. 

About Akular

AKULAR, a global 3D visualization platform incorporated in 2018, has hosted over 7,000 3D models from 4000 accounts since its inception. Originally an augmented reality app for building designers and architects, AKULAR evolved into a 3D optimization and visualization powerhouse which today supports the biggest construction projects and digital twins of critical infrastructure.

At AKULAR, we work tirelessly on our mission to achieve environmental sustainability by digitizing the built world. By developing technology and products that enable 3D BIM models to be used during construction, we help investors and contractors save time, money and resources. By providing a platform for construction data to be merged with in-use operational data, we enable owners to monitor, benchmark, and improve building performance.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Bentley and iTwin are either registered or unregistered trademarks or service marks of Bentley Systems, Incorporated or one of its direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Background on the AKULAR TWIN app

Current BIM models are heavy and hard to use outside of the powerful workstations in the offices of BIM modelers and VDC managers. When field staff uses simplified 3D models, they can see all the latest updates right in the field and can visualize and mark changes with the tip of their fingers. The changes and updates are immediately visible in the back office and by the other field teams.

The AKULAR TWIN app connected on its back end to Bentley iTwin and MS Azure Digital Twin enables users to upload a BIM model during construction, or to use an existing building’s layout to create a BIM model. The app enables project stakeholders to view data displayed contextually in the 3D model along with accessing relevant files and tracking tickets.

-Users can compare updated versions of the same model, detect clashes, and track issues

-Construction workers and facility managers can use the model onsite using an AR real-world overlay or an iPad or using Magic Leap 2 XR goggles. To prepare for the site visit, the managers typically collaborate in Virtual Reality using Oculus Quest 2, where different teams can dial in virtually at the same time and inspect all the data and documents in the context of the model.

-All changes sync back to the back end and all the other users in real-time

-The app can be available offline and with its backend on-premise to support the highest level security implementations, for instance on critical infrastructure

Solutions to 3 problems

Problem #1: Spreadsheet databases are hard to read, especially without the visual context of the building

Solution: AKULAR builds an easy-to-navigate visualization layer on top of the operating data, literally mapping the data to the model. Filtering data points means users can exclude unneeded information.

Problem #2: Large vendors tend to place data in individual silos, making them difficult to search through

Solution: Top layer operating model serves as an overarching data pool that bridges the multiple

Problem #3: Contractors and suppliers send in multiple versions of the same file in numerous 2D and 3D file formats

Solution: AKULAR’s model enables users to compare and update versions easily. Changes are updated in real-time as they walk through it

Past articles from the authors

Digital twins are primed to revolutionize the infrastructure industry

How innovation, efficiency, and intelligence across the infrastructure ecosystem are finding a kindred spirit in digital twins.