New applications for Sigfridsborgsskolan’s digital twin
Scharc has worked on ten school projects in Nacka, including Sigfridsborgsskolan. During the school construction, Scharc started a collaboration with NCC to test its proprietary SmartHelmets. The aim was to support and promote healthier and safer construction sites, as well as to help streamline work processes. Before the school was completed, both staff and students were able to virtually explore
The construction site is connected to the digital twin
After several joint construction projects, Scharc has launched a new collaboration with NCC to test its proprietary SmartHelmets, an Internet of Things (IoT) device that collects and reports data to the digital twin, at Sigfridsborgsskolan in Nacka municipality. The test is part of the "Connected Construction Site" project, which focuses on the digitalisation of construction sites and is funded through one of Vinnova's strategic innovation programmes, "Smart Built Environment", and is led by Linköping University and Luleå University of Technology, and also has various companies in the construction and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector as partners.
What is a digital twin? A digital twin is a virtual copy of a physical product, process or system. It is a digital representation of a building, which connects the physical and virtual worlds through the combined use of digital technologies; IoT, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Digital twins can help in design and construction, as well as in operating buildings and cities more efficiently, thus reducing their environmental impact. The integrated workflow built around the BIM model has the potential to drastically increase the efficiency of the design and production process, and reduce both construction waste and the risk of design errors.
BuildingCloud's SmartHelmets and external sensors connect the construction site to the BIM model, which can improve the integrated workflow between the design and construction phases. This supports the construction workers onsite and collects relevant data with the aim to create better buildings. The sensors collect and report data to the digital twin, such as temperature, moisture and particle pollution. The helmets use localisation to enable fall and hit detection as well as danger zones. The data are then analysed and visualised on BuildingCloud, a web-based platform built around the BIM model, creating metrics for efficiency and improvement of safety measures and work environment. During the test, a solution for the inspection process has also been developed, using mobile device localisation to connect issue management with the rooms where people are located.
Sigfridsborgsskolan as part of Nacka Strategic Partnering (NSP)
Sigfridsborgsskolan is part of Nacka Strategic Partnering (NSP), which is a long-term collaboration between NCC and Nacka Municipality, involving a total of 14 projects. Scharc has been involved in the construction and renovation of ten schools in Nacka municipality, including Sigfridsborgsskolan, a F-6 primary school for about 800 pupils, located in Älta.
BuildingCloud's Experience has been used over the years to discuss the building's design proposals with the municipality and educators. Easily visualizing the buildings in their future design has made it possible to get relevant feedback at an early stage, ensuring the creation of schools that are appreciated by both students and staff alike.
"The consultants' models developed during the design process were clearly visualised so that there were no big surprises when the staff moved into the school. Now I am looking forward to how the BIM models can be used in the future to streamline facility management and how the digital twin can support us in the next project to set the right requirements and choose efficient and sustainable solutions," says Kristofer van der Schaaf, project manager for Sigfridsborgsskolan.
However, this is not the first strategic partnership in which Scharc has participated. Almost ten years ago, Hovsjöskolan, a F-9 primary school for about 650 students, and Brunnsängsskolan, a F-9 primary school for over 750 students, were built in Södertälje municipality, which was a strategic partnership between NCC and Södertälje municipality.
The projects are characterised by a close collaboration between construction companies, property owners, various consultants and Scharc as architects. In both partnerships it’s been essential to create good BIM models that contain all relevant information. They form the basis and prerequisite for the development of digital twins, therefore it’s crucial to develop the models correctly from the start.
The experience of being a participant at different levels of partnerships within these projects, as well as the strong interest in pushing the boundaries in the name of collaboration, gives Scharc deeper insights into how collaborative platforms should work, and how all project participants need to be involved, even those who are not as used to working with BIM. "The threshold for accessing the models needs to be lowered so that everyone can participate. Easy access and traceability create trust in the models, which is fundamental for everyone to be able to use them, be it in design, procurement, production or even management," says Sven Staiger, CEO of Scharc Group.
With extensive experience in construction projects since 2003, Scharc has been developing tools and processes to promote the use of digital twin technology in the construction industry since 2010. The journey began with BuildingCloud, a web-based collaboration application built around the IFC model and the digital twin concept, by linking the model to issue management, document management and communications, as well as linking different data silos and stakeholders to a central platform. When BuildingExperience came to life, it became possible to collaborate in 3D, review and develop projects via streaming in the browser.
A digital tour of the new Sigfridsborgsskolan
Both staff and students were able to explore and experience their future school using BuildingCloud's Experience, even before construction was completed. Teachers could explore the spaces, features and design, while students could meet up and check out their classrooms and school grounds. "Being able to walk around the school virtually gives a completely different insight to just looking at a plan, it gives a much greater sense of the building, the rooms and the environment. The game gave teachers and educators the opportunity to 'visit' the school with the students before the move took place. This created a fantastic prior understanding that reassured the pupils before a major transition." says Anne Sjö, Principal of Älta Rectorate. The statistics also confirm that the game has been well received. Between mid-May and the end of June, around 800 people experienced the virtual school for over 7,000 minutes.
Sigfridsborgsskolan is now ready and the move to the new building has already taken place at the end of the school term. Staff and pupils can now experience their new school in real life.
New possibilities with digital twins in the operational phase
In the next phase, Scharc will collaborate with users, operations and students, as well as Nacka's property management, in order to explore benefits and develop tools to improve experiences during the operations phase and support more sustainable buildings.
The user experience can be improved by giving students and teachers access to real-time information on certain sensor data. The following section describes some applications to demonstrate the potential of the digital twin. But this is only the beginning; the technology offers a wealth of other possibilities.
Booked group rooms can be identified as available using presence sensors, allowing the available spaces to be used efficiently.
When a student is looking for a quiet place to study, data from the digital twin can be used to find a suitable location where the sound sensors show low noise levels.
Data from particle sensors can be used to see if the use of spaces or cleaning routines need to be adjusted.
Sound sensors can help find the best possible furnishings for classrooms, break-out spaces and common areas, taking into account the use of the rooms. Different configurations can be easily checked with the digital twin's virtual reality and if they are good, they can be executed on the spot. Automated feedback loops allow other planning teams to incorporate these results into subsequent school projects.
Digital twins will complement gut-driven decisions with processes based on data collected throughout a building's life-cycle. The technology can be used to design and build better and more sustainable buildings at a lower cost by using the collected and analysed data. In the operational phase, digital twins can be used to monitor, simulate and control buildings to improve their performance. The aim is to reduce life-cycle costs and environmental impact as much as possible while maintaining efficient use of the building and a high quality user experience.
Cleaning costs can be reduced by using a digital twin which, in combination with the sensors, can help determine which spaces are heavily used and which are less so. Spaces that are rarely used need to be cleaned less frequently, while frequently used areas need to be cared for more often. Effective cleaning is increasingly important in the current corona pandemic, schools being a particularly sensitive example.
The correct cleaning methods are linked to the selected materials in the BIM model and information on these is automatically updated when the supplier changes its regulations. The cleaning company is also reminded of specific maintenance and cleaning at certain intervals so that it is easy to do it right.
The experience gained from operations can then be used as feedback in the design phase to evaluate early choices, as material costs can be easily compared to cleaning and maintenance costs by linking cleaning costs to materials in the BIM model.
Maintenance of building materials and products
One of the biggest challenges in property management is to allocate maintenance budgets efficiently and fairly. Due to a lack of information, some buildings may be late with maintenance while others may receive funding for projects that could have been deferred. To solve this problem, a digital twin can be helpful for real estate management, assisting with identifying key maintenance needs and taking the necessary action. The maintenance budget can be planned in advance because the digital twin can simulate the life of the materials according to site conditions and the total load on the material. This leads to maximum efficiency in the use of funds.
Room-related information and predictive maintenance
When property managers and service personnel are on site, relevant product information linked to the BIM model is displayed while they are in a room. This allows staff to get the right information about a product or building component and to record that the service has been carried out including information about who has performed the service and when.
In the office, staff can go into the digital twin and get a quick overview of what service needs to be done and what spare parts need to be ordered before the next service visit. Smaller parts that need to be replaced more often are ordered automatically.
If the manager falls ill, the substitute manager can also easily see what needs to be done and when the manager is back at work, he can quickly see the history with information about events.
The technology can support property management with predictive maintenance information compiled through real-time data collected from all physical assets in a building and analysed and compared with previous metrics. The system recognises that a particular component is wearing out and needs attention, and signals the problem to the responsible property manager.
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