Smarter buildings and infrastructure begin with a digital twin

PostedDaniel Kalnins

The construction industry is changing. Accelerated by COVID-19 and asset owners having higher expectations of digital adoption, 72% of construction companies say they are prioritizing digital transformation.

Governments are also pushing for greater digitization in the construction industry. The US government is encouraging asset owners to embrace construction technology through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), offering $100 million of funding from the $1.2 trillion budget.

In Australia, industry groups are encouraging the government and its clients to move from digital by exception to a digital by default approach so they can unlock significant productivity gains and efficiencies.

Daniel Kalnins, Head of New Build at Willow, is seeing these changes play out, with a growing number of asset owners, development managers and project directors opting to include a digital deliverable or digital twin requirement in the construction of their new build.

“While a digital twin can be a virtual replica of a building or infrastructure asset, it is also much more. WillowTwin™ normalizes, assembles and structures your data from 3D models (BIM), asset data and information, documents and drawings, IoT sensors, and controls. It’s the difference between viewing an asset of your site vs being able to see the real-time condition holistically and taking action to avoid unplanned downtime and causing a bottleneck in operations.”

A digital twin can deliver value throughout the entire lifecycle of a building, making the construction and ongoing operation of your new building more efficient, saving you money, and improving sustainability management and security.

Using WillowTwin™ across the asset lifecycle

“Implementing a digital twin at the design phase really sets your building up for the future in ways it can be hard to imagine right now.”

While a digital twin can be implemented at any stage of the construction process, in this article, we look at why asset owners are better off designing and constructing new assets with a digital twin in mind.

Create a digital readiness strategy to maximize your project’s profitability now and in the future

There will never be a more critical time for your digital strategy than pre-construction. Setting the strategy upfront and early on lets you define what success looks like and optimizes your chances of achieving those outcomes.

“Capital projects offer a unique opportunity to create a digital twin when you are spending the money on suppliers to deliver an outcome already. Ensuring your data requirements are accounted for and included in contracts before engaging suppliers means you are confident your data is complete and high-quality. This drives cost reductions, ensures future value to asset managers, and improves the return on your investment,” says Kalnins.

The terms digital thread or golden thread are becoming increasingly common in the industry. While not yet mandatory in the US or Australia, it’s not a stretch to imagine they will be soon. At its most basic meaning, the digital or golden thread is a way to describe a continuous, unbroken, all-encompassing repository of information that grows with an asset, from concept to design, construction to handover, operations, and even end of life.

A digital thread of information can also be used to drive a variety of benefits post-construction, from vendor performance assessment to informing portfolio performance management, maintenance, and construction planning.

It’s something that Kalnins believes has significant innovation potential in the future.

“Asset owners who are doing this right are creating the backbone of their digital thread from the start of the design phase. They recognize this data as an asset they can optimize now and down the line. This sets them apart from their competitors, and they’ll be way ahead while the rest play catch-up.”

Optimize data capture from day one of your project

The data for your asset starts being generated in the design stage, making it the best time to build a digital twin. Choosing to create a digital twin at or after the handover stage creates unnecessary risk.

Creating a digital twin AFTER handover
Creating a digital twin DURING handover

“While a digital twin can be implemented at any stage, if something is already built, there are going to be limits to what can be achieved. With a new build in the design phase, you have the opportunity to capture all the value a digital twin has to offer.”

Key moments during the design and construction phase enable you to capture important data. Missing those moments isn’t just an issue for operations, you will also have lost the chance to capture waste reduction benefits during construction. Being able to track the progress of your project accurately delivers significant time and cost savings.

Having an experienced partner like Willow enables both owners and contractors to align on the digital requirements and right-size the project, making it cost-effective, efficient, and fit for purpose.

“Willow’s digital engineering services and platform has saved contractors and owner groups weeks of time typically spent on creating or locating information during the construction phase.”

Easily view, validate, track, and manage your project

A common challenge for asset owners, development managers and project directors is the limited real-time ability to measure the performance of their construction delivery teams. Yet understanding progress is essential to ensuring the project stays on track.

Implementing a digital twin ahead of construction mitigates project risk and compliance issues. By collating your digital requirements, tracking completion, data compliance, and supplier performance, you can see where the problems are across the project and within the architecture, engineering and construction teams (AEC).

“It’s a misconception that all companies in the supply chain are hesitant to engage digitally. In our experience, many are already collecting data and using an online system or platform. The benefit of using WillowTwin™ is that it really doesn’t change the AEC’s processes and it can automate the creation of digital twins. As seen with our recent Procore partnership, WillowTwin™ easily links to what they already use. Usually, the data from AEC teams can be shared within a few clicks.”

Both technical and non-technical team members can track progress giving seamless knowledge access and sharing across all teams.

104 days per year lost by construction workers searching for project data, revised drawings and cut sheets and resolving conflict and rework at handover

$177.5 billion per year cost to the construction industry 

Source: PlanGrid

Reduce the risk of handover dragging on with a simple process

Everything collected in your digital twin during construction contributes to a smoother handover. Because of the transparency and access to information, operations teams have confidence in what needs to be done even before day one.

It’s common knowledge that handovers can take months, if not years. Nearly half of rework is due to poor communication and project information, costing the US construction industry $31.3 billion annually.​​

Kalnins says, “Operations teams and facilities managers are often left chasing consultants and subcontractors for building information far too long after completion. A digital twin implemented at the pre-construction stage puts an end to that. With expectations and deliverables laid out from the beginning, the handover is straightforward and uncomplicated. It’s a win-win for both parties.”

4000+ hours saved over 18 months during the design phase of a major rail infrastructure project

450+ hours saved over 18 months during the construction period, major real estate development project

Get it right the first time with Willow’s digital engineering services

Deciding to implement a digital twin can feel overwhelming, from choosing the right technology to knowing what data you need and why. Our solution is a hybrid of professional services and software built around the precise needs of asset owners and contractors in the new build process.

Our specialists know the common blindspots around data requirements. They are committed to sharing their knowledge upfront, giving you confidence in your project’s success and mitigating the need for additional patchwork solutions down the line.


Let us help you set your project up for success. Save on the construction and operating costs of your new smart building, and be ready to capitalize on innovation opportunities.

Visit us at Groundbreak or download our ebook: WillowTwin™ for New Build

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