What is a Digital Twin?

The emergence of the Digital Twin phenomenon has heralded a great change in terms of urban planning. It essentially presents the city as dynamic, in virtual form. Ensuring every element from the historic fabric, new construction, and public transit is accounted for in one three-dimensional model. Not only does it present key elements in terms of the landscape, but it also encompasses often overlooked conditions such as the presence of light throughout the day, shadows, and the presence of vegetation and trees. All of which contribute to a better preliminary process of site analysis.

The Digital Twin is an archive: an archive of the past, present, and future

It consists of three key components: visualization, forecasting, and diagnostics. It offers an opportunity for modifications to the cityscape to be simulated and tested before they are put into effect. It can potentially forecast how changes to a structure can impact its surroundings. In essence, it is a superior method of careful urban planning, reducing stagnation and ensuring the city continues to evolve.

The concept of the digital twin is beneficial in every sense, for use in both large and small scale building projects. It presents the physical space as a virtual model, allowing user input and using real-time data to remain current. The widespread use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) in the built environment could benefit from the use of a digital twin… using real-time feedback to update the information model. The more accessible this information the better the project result.

What is a Digital Twin? - Image 2 of 2
The city as a Digital Twin . Image © Bentley Systems

What is interesting is the sheer advantages in regards to the implementation of a digital twin in urban planning. It can measure the structural integrity of buildings over time. It can prevent substantial costly mistakes and measure aspects in relation to energy consumption and carbon emissions. It can encourage better large-scale decisions in the development of our cities of the future, taking into account both long and short-term repercussions.

How exactly does a digital twin gather this information you may ponder? It uses a form of ‘hot data’ a term used to describe data that is accessible, feasible, and relevant to the model. Much of this data can be gathered through the use of IOT devices. These extract data from physical sensors, which can gather information including air quality, humidity, occupation, etc. Even this form of occupant information can dramatically benefit the built environment in terms of highlighting a user-centered approach to the design process. Evidence-based design…to better respond to the demands of Architecture for people.

A prime example of a Digital Twin in development is engineer Moaz Khabiaty’s city of Damascus. With the intention of improving the city’s infrastructure within the virtual reality, he hopes the unrestricted nature of the twin will allow for citizens themselves to present their opinions on the redevelopment of the cityscape. Reconstruction with a reflection of the users' demands. A city of the future… A smart city.

As stipulated within the BIM process any feedback that is generated from a project is passed on as a learning curb. The digital twin presents us with a constant feedback loop in regards to building performance, allowing modifications to be made before any projects are implemented. Is the future of this system potentially artificial intelligence? Will it give rise to a new method of implementing urban transformation?

A precedent offered by BuildMedia includes a digital twin of Wellington, New Zealand. This has offered the city a means of large-scale decision-making and acts as a platform for engagement. Not only can it offer insight to citizens, it can also prove to be an effective marketing tool in regard to urban planning.

The twin can be instrumental in highlighting inefficiencies in the urban environment by simulating unanticipated scenarios. It can allow for a more resilient future for our built environment by offering us an insight into a potential catastrophe. Any infrastructure that may pose vulnerable can be underlined and managed appropriately via disaster mitigation. Perhaps widespread use of digital twins could have proven beneficial in the face of the pandemic?

Chinese company 51World has created a digital twin of the city of Shanghai. Generated using hot data via sensors, drones and satellites it demonstrates its versatile nature, offering a risk assessment for natural disasters (including flood planning) and a method of measuring the scale of impact of new builds.

The digital twin is fundamentally the city of the future; allowing for advanced decision-making in urban planning. Its compelling nature is its ability to evolve, to offer new paradigms in the way we visualize the built environment. Architecture with the absence of physical form… Perhaps a step towards the metaverse itself.

Image gallery

See allShow less
About this author
Cite: Rebecca Ildikó Leete. "What is a Digital Twin?" 22 Jan 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/975256/what-is-a-digital-twin> ISSN 0719-8884

The Digital Twin . Image via Shutterstock/Videoflow


You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.