Reusable twins for Irish Life
A digital twin is a computer program that uses real world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform.
Glasgow-based specialist software company IES aims to create digital twins for the built environment “with decarbonisation in mind”.
Instead of producing an entirely new data model for companies to use from scratch, it recycles 3D models of its client’s existing building stock which are typically created during the designing process then discarded once the building is passed on. This is known as its Sleeping Digital Twin (SDT) process.
According to IES, these dormant client models can be ‘re-awoken’ into accurate and reliable digital twins that have the ability to optimise the performance of buildings in real time, evaluate future ‘what-if’ scenarios and technologies, and perform a variety of analyses around energy, health and wellbeing, comfort, costs and decarbonisation.
Investment and pension giant Irish Life recently leveraged IES’ SDT process to help it find the best route to net-zero. It selected four buildings to mirror four digital twins that were representative of its overall portfolio: two offices, one retail and one warehouse, all located in Dublin.
IES had previously modelled each building for compliance purposes which meant that it already had more up-to-date versions in its back pocket, knowing these more accurate models would allow for testing with a higher degree of confidence in the results.
Now IES had the abandoned models, it was a case of upgrading them into digital twins that could support its decarbonisation analysis.
IES took the time updating each model to a point where they accurately reflected each building’s HVAC systems – a system used to control the temperature in the building, and their components in operation, to give a more fine-tuned measure of current performance.
For each model, a six-step process was followed to integrate the data of each building into the digital version. These included onsite surveys; assessment of existing building information and data; checking inputs of models; digital twin creation; monthly calibration with energy data, and lastly, testing different renovation and decarbonisation scenarios using real-time dashboards, which the client is able to access freely to track progress towards net-zero.
The final reports for Irish Life contained a decarbonisation roadmap highlighting specific measures it could implement in each building to achieve its net-zero goals – these could also be replicated elsewhere in the portfolio.
IES said that large-scale interventions were needed for each building – including structural changes, such as windows and frames as well as replacing each HVAC system with a completely new one before it could focus on net-zero status.
Once these changes had been made, installing renewables such as Solar PV – tech that converts sunlight into electrical energy, battery storage and wind turbines were encouraged by the digital twins as the best performing strategies to reach net-zero.
Irish Life and IES are continuing their partnership together to ensure the firm always takes the best route towards decarbonisation.
Subscribe to our Editor's weekly newsletter