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BIM & Digital Twins: 3 Real-World Examples

In the fast-moving world of AEC, technological advancements continue to redefine the way we design, construct and manage buildings. Among these innovations, Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Digital Twins have emerged as transformative tools, revolutionising every phase of the construction process. From initial design to facilities management long after completion, BIM technology enables seamless collaboration, enhances visualisation, and ensures the efficient execution of complex projects.

There are dozens of 'digital twins' popping up in the metaverse but here we look at three real-world examples of where BIM and digital twins have been used to successfully deliver ground-breaking projects: The Shard, Dubai’s Museum of the Future, and One World Trade Centre. These architectural marvels not only showcase the power of BIM in tackling diverse challenges but also exemplify how digital twins pave the way for sustainable, technologically advanced structures in the modern urban landscape.

Example 01. The Shard 

The Shard

Creating a skyscraper in a modern urban environment is no mean feat. The existing surrounding buildings, utilities and populace all present challenges for planners, architects and construction companies. The 310m Shard was designed by Renzo Piano in 2000 and was set to replace the existing Southwark Towers. Despite fierce opposition from English Heritage and the Royal Parks Foundation, planning permission for the UK’s tallest building was granted in 2003 with the project finally being completed in 2012.

The Shard is one of the most progressive buildings in the UK and from its inception, it incorporated BIM methodologies to streamline the project and as with any project of this scale, multiple contractors worked to turn the ground-breaking concept into reality.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology played a significant role in the design, construction, and management of the Shard project. Here’s how:

1. Design and Visualisation

LiDAR and photogrammetry software were used to create detailed 3D models of the current landscape to gain accurate intelligence about the existing infrastructure. These were then combined with visualisations of the Shard's intended architecture, structure, and mechanical systems to create a digital twin of the site pre-construction. These models allowed architects and designers to visualize the building in a virtual environment, enabling better coordination and communication among project stakeholders.

2. Construction Planning and Logistics

BIM was used for construction planning and logistics management, including sequencing of construction activities, scheduling of resources, and coordination of deliveries. Using the digital twin, virtual construction simulations helped optimize workflows, improve site safety, and minimize disruption to surrounding areas during construction.

3. Clash Detection and Resolution

The full digital twin of the Shard also enabled clash detection between different building systems and components, such as structural elements, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) systems, and architectural features. Detecting clashes in the virtual model allowed teams to resolve conflicts before they occurred on-site, reducing construction delays and costly reworks.

4. Collaboration and Coordination

Creating a digital twin made collaboration much easier between the various teams involved in the Shard project, including architects, engineers, contractors, and consultants. By centralizing project information within a shared BIM model, teams could work more efficiently, resolve conflicts, and ensure design integrity throughout the construction process.

5. Facility Management and Operations

Since completion, BIM models of the Shard have been utilised for facilities management. The digital twin of the building provides invaluable information about its structural integrity, MEP systems, and maintenance requirements. Facility managers use this data to optimise building performance, reduce energy consumption, and ensure the comfort and safety of occupants.

Example 02 - Dubai’s Museum of the Future

Dubai Museum of the Future

When you mention innovation in AEC in the city of Dubai, you may immediately think of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. But there’s another feat of engineering and construction which leveraged the power of BIM and the digital twin even more effectively. The Museum of the Future 

The unique and challenging design of the Museum probably led to many a sleepless night for those involved but the building also needed to achieve LEED Platinum status - a framework which sets out targets for the most efficient, cost-saving green buildings across the world.

The Museum of the Future was created entirely in a BIM environment - from design through to construction. The resulting digital twin models enabled contractors and other stakeholders to collaborate on every single element.

museum of the future architect visualisation
Museum of the Future - Phil Handforth

The building’s unusual shape threw up a lot challenges for engineering consultant, Buro Happold. Their structural team used parametric modelling to visualise the complex steelwork and steel-clad composite panels which would make up the construction, with a digital model used to ensure that none of the ‘bones’ of the building were visible through the calligraphy details in the facade. 

The principal contractor of the project, BAM International took the digital twin one step further, adding 3D models to aid in programming and sequencing the construction. This helped to ensure that every step of the construction phase could be simulated to ensure the safety of those on site as well as the timeline of each construction phase.

Further digital models were then also created to integrate the internal systems of the building:

“We created a 3D energy model in which all 12 disciplines could interact in real time, agreeing more than 50 sustainable design decisions that resulted in a range of tangible benefits including a 45% reduction in water use and total energy savings of 25%.” Buro Happold - Engineering Consultant for the Museum of the Future

Using BIM to create a digital twin of the Museum of the Future wasn’t just helping during the design and construction of one of the world’s most unusual buildings. It will also help to manage the maintenance and facilities for years to come.

Example 03 - One World Trade Centre

one world trade centre in the new york city skyline
Image: WSP

In the aftermath of 9/11, the New York Skyline demanded a new beacon of positivity and show of resilience. Initially named Freedom Tower during the planning stage, One World Trade Centre was designed to memorialise the original World Trade Centre buildings which stood on the same site. WSP, the same company that engineered The Shard took up this high-profile mantle.

As the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Centre was bound to be challenging. According to AECOM Tishman who worked on the pre-construction and construction management of the building, it was one of the United States’ most complex projects ever built. Right from the start, AECOM Tishman set up a BIM Command Centre which would allow all stakeholders to collaborate; Architecture, Engineering, plumbing, fire safety, electrical and concrete contractors all had access to the same building data. 

After the events of 9/11, One World Trade Centre needed to be not just the tallest building in the New York City skyline, but also the safest. The building’s 186ft tall base is surrounded by 30” thick high-strength concrete and five different thicknesses of glass were used at various levels to withstand extreme wind and blast forces. 

BIM model of 1WTC

1WTC construction BIM

As a LEED Gold-Certified construction, the design of 1WTC had to be as special on the inside as it was on the outside. A state-of-the-art system to reduce energy demand was implemented as well as systems to recycle rainwater for building cooling and irrigation. This led to the need for MEP services to be involved in the entire process.

BIM models were used during the design and construction phases of One World Trade Centre which all went to power the building management system which optimises energy use and monitors air quality, all informed by a myriad of sensors across the building which can be used to inform a full digital twin of the building.

BIM & Digital Twins in the Drone Era

With the exception of the Museum of the Future, these projects were designed and constructed mostly in the pre-drone era. Drones have become a game-changer for collecting information in complex, high-risk environments and now make the survey element of projects such as these much faster to carry out.

Drones are also highly important in digital twin projects because of the ability to conduct thorough repeat inspections throughout the building's lifecycle without sending an entire survey team to site. Drones are now being widely used from the initial site survey, to tracking construction progress and finally to managing the condition and maintenance needs post-build. But how is all of that data collated into something meaningful?

Digital Twins are comprised of layers of information, collected at each stage of the construction process until a full virtual model is complete showing all elements of the building. Converting drone data into BIM compatible formats is an important step in the process and you don't have to user a laser scanner to do it.

This quick guide tells you all you need to know about using Hammer Missions for Scan to BIM.


BIM model

These real-world examples demonstrate the transformative power of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital twins in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.

These iconic structures exemplify how BIM technology has revolutionized the way complex buildings are designed, constructed, and managed. From the inception of a project to its completion and through its entire lifecycle, BIM facilitates seamless collaboration, enhances visualization, streamlines construction processes, and ensures sustainability and safety standards are met.

The Shard stands as a testament to the effectiveness of BIM in managing the challenges of urban construction, while the Museum of the Future in Dubai showcases how BIM can enable the realisation of visionary architectural designs while ensuring sustainability and efficiency. Meanwhile, One World Trade Centre stands as a symbol of resilience and innovation, demonstrating how BIM can be instrumental in creating safe, sustainable, and technologically advanced structures in the face of adversity - all fuelled by the transformative power of BIM and digital twins.


BIM & Digital Twins

Want to know more about using drones for BIM and creating Digital Twins?

Drones are now one of the most powerful facilitators of BIM and digital twin development.

To find out more about integrating drones into your BIM workflow arrange a call with our friendly team.


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