Digital Twins: Towards an Overarching Framework for the Built Environment

Julio Bros-Williamson, Astrid Bagireanu*, Mila Duncheva, John Currie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Digital Twins (DTs) have entered the built environment
from more established industries like aviation and manufacturing,
although there has never been a common goal for utilising DTs at scale.
Their assimilation into the built environment lacked its very own
handover documentation: how should DTs be implemented into a
project and what responsibilities should each project stakeholder hold
in the realisation of a DT vision. What is needed is an approach to
translate these requirements into actionable DT dimensions. This paper
presents a foundation for an overarching framework specific to the
built environment. For the purposes of this research, the project
timeline is established by referencing the Royal Institute of British
Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work from 2020, providing a foundation
for delineating project stages. The RIBA Plan of Work consists of eight
stages designed to inform on the definition, briefing, design,
coordination, construction, handover, and use of a built asset. Similar
project stages are utilised in other countries; therefore, the
recommendations from the interviews presented in this paper are
applicable internationally. Simultaneously, there is not a single
mainstream software resource that leverages DT abilities. This
ambiguity meets an unparalleled ambition from governments and
industries worldwide to achieve a national grid of interconnected DTs.
For the construction industry to access these benefits, it necessitates a
defined starting point. This research aims to provide a comprehensive
understanding of the potential applications and ramifications of DT in
the context of the built environment. This paper is an integral part of a
larger research aimed at developing a conceptual framework for the
Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) sector following a
conventional project timeline. Therefore, this paper plays a pivotal role
in providing practical insights and a tangible foundation for developing
a stage-by-stage approach to assimilate the potential of DT within the
built environment. First, the research focuses on a review of relevant
literature, albeit acknowledging the inherent constraint of limited
sources available. Secondly, a qualitative study compiling the views of
14 DT experts is presented, concluding with an inductive analysis of
the interview findings - ultimately highlighting the barriers and
strengths of DT in the context of framework development. As parallel
developments aim to progress net-zero-centred design and improve
project efficiencies across the built environment, the limited resources
available to support DTs should be leveraged to propel the industry to
reach its digitalisation era, in which AEC stakeholders have a
fundamental role in understanding this, from the earliest stages of a
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Digital twins
  • Decision Making
  • Design and Technology
  • net-zero
  • Built Environment


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