HVAC consultant achieves 70% cut in survey costs with digital twin technology

The 3D digital twin is millimetre-accurate

Hull-based low carbon HVAC specialist BREng says its use of three-dimensional ‘digital twins’ of HVAC projects slashes time on site as well as costs.

The company says that total building digitalisation overcomes the need to source original architect drawings which may be out of date, while doing away with manual site measuring systems, which, along with being time-consuming can be inaccurate due to human error.

The system uses an optical scanning rig linked to laser-based lidar cameras placed at strategic points within and outside the building. This builds a detailed digital twin of the building by ‘stitching together’ successive scans, including individual spaces within floors and any existing HVAC services, the firm says.

The high resolution file produced is imported into standard HVAC design and BIM applications to enable the design of building systems with all dimensions accurate, with equipment and pipe lengths able to be sized accurately first time, the firm says.

Jack Smelt, who heads BREng’s Digital Buildings section, said:

Using a ‘digital twin’ dramatically reduces the time it takes to design and plan HVAC services for buildings, in both new and replacement projects, while also eliminating ‘guestimation’ from project design, as the building layout and all dimensions are rendered accurately, to the millimetre.

The 3D renders can be used to create virtual walk-throughs of buildings, with accurate dimensions.  Any building can be scanned, whether back-to-brick or fully fitted out, the firm adds – and the process can be carried out on operating buildings, with an automatic face-blur function ensuring occupant privacy.

Jack added:

The conventional process for creating building plans often requires the contractor or consultant to visit a site and manually measure the building and individual spaces, including window and door dimensions, and accounting for existing services such as indoor units, radiators, ductwork, lights and electrical sockets. This is time-consuming and subject to error, leading to mistakes in project design that can result in time and cost penalties during installation. Using a digital building scan overcomes these issues and ensures a right-first-time result.

BREng reports a 75% reduction in site visits required by project stakeholders, and a 70% reduction in survey costs and BIM file creation. In addition, three-quarters of project issues can be resolved without escalation, it said. As BIM is increasingly being used across construction planning, particularly on HVAC services for large public and commercial buildings, digital scans can be used as records of pre-existing building condition before commencement of work on refurbishment projects, enabling any damage caused during work to be fairly apportioned. To-date, BREng has created digital twins of a wide range of settings, from multi-storey offices to internal HVAC plant rooms and external rooftops.

Jack added:

It is invaluable to be able to view and interact with the digital twin after a site visit, to check details of, say, window heights or pipework lay-out, to make sure our proposed new solution dovetails perfectly with the building fabric and any obstacles that need to be accommodated.

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