How the Digital Twin and Common Data Environment (CDE) are Changing Construction

June 17, 2019 | 4 minute read
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Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms are continually searching for new ways to save time and costs on their projects while also improving their processes and workplace safety.

Our customers have also expressed interest in learning how to incorporate two methodologies into their work: building information modeling (BIM) and the common data environment (CDE).

Both BIM and a CDE help exchange project data and information. However, a CDE specifically mandates that data is stored in a single location or repository.

These two approaches will deliver a substantial return on investment over time if they’re executed properly.  

  1. The BIM-centric digital twin: A compiled, virtual model containing or linking the elements, components, and communication of the physical construction site. Homegrown and on-premise systems don’t provide a secure, multi-tenant solution that solves the need for data neutrality.
  2. A CDE: A single platform used to collect, manage, and disseminate information necessary for all project stages.

The digital twin

The digital twin is an assembled aggregation of data captured by other tools. This data collection can contain information from all stages—including plan, bid, design, construct, and operate—as well as the roles within and between participating organizations.

Handover and as-builts tend to be immense and complicated tasks that change frequently and demand hundreds of hours of administration. Scanned assets may not include the design or construction information.

Improving the delivery process can significantly help save time. For example, when users access certain modules from Oracle Aconex to communicate, including bids/tenders, mail forms, field reports, etc., the physical site’s status is captured.

The concept of the digital twin has been discussed for nearly 20 years. But what owners truly desire—the dynamic exchange of data and information bi-directionally between the physical and virtual space—has only recently been implemented.

BIM and the digital twin

There are three stages to creating a digital twin for your BIM project. These include:

1. Defining who will consume information that’s either contained or associated with the model. The metadata that’s created in the authoring tools must be defined. The BIM execution plan or the EIR (employee information request) addresses this in detail.

In addition, users must address the historical work-in-progress (WIP) churn - as well as manage time-sensitive clashes that are assignable and reportable across multiple external organizations. Users must also define and associate cost, schedule, and dynamic asset information.

Contracts, third-party agreement (TPA) approvals, and configurable workflows are part of this stage. Materials tracking and management, equipment utilization, earthwork, and safety monitoring from site photo analysis, and worker sensors are also considerations.

2. Intelligent model creation involves efficiently performing, maintaining, and storing all communication, review, and deliverable processes associated with the model throughout the project lifespan.

Virtual design and construction (VDC) starts with planning and continues across the lifecycle in the form of advanced work packaging, workface planning, handover and operations, and maintenance. RFIs, design reviews, submittals, change events, etc., are also tracked. Any updates trigger change orders that affect the contract and budget.

Projects should include a simple method of reporting who did what, and when, anytime throughout the project. Hundreds of organizations and thousands of people exchange information on large infrastructure projects.

Everything must be captured and stored in a single, reliable, data-neutral system of record. Any system that allows a single entity or authority to own, view, and control all the data presents a risk to everyone participating.

3. The handover and as-built portion of the digital twin.In a perfect world, a BIM model would include self-serve and dynamic delivery to the consumer as part of the deliverable, but we aren’t quite there yet.

Predictive analytics will change how we plan projects in the future. The Oracle Construction and Engineering Lab in Deerfield is working with strategic partners on this.

While we incorporate Oracle products at the lab, we also demonstrate how current partner products integrate with Oracle products. We frequently host business development events, as well as innovation thought leadership forums, because we understand how these partnerships will benefit the industry.

Four risk areas

Without a data-neutral system of record, users can encounter four risks:

  1. Contracting organization liability: Users could claim they “didn’t know about something,” resulting in shared liability without access to a data-neutral system of record.
  2. Risk on every other organizations: Other organizations often create a backup system of multiple copies in the event they’re shut out of a system.
  3. Inefficiencies: Owning the accounts and access is a time-consuming administrative burden and presents additional security risk.
  4. Poor adoption rates due to lack of trust: Other organizations won’t willingly or fully adopt a system without a solid foundation of trust.

The CDE and next-level BIM

Today’s organizations want to consolidate as much as possible into a single, cloud-based platform, and eliminate on-premise silos of duplicate information. BIM plays an increasingly prominent role in communication and construction business processes.

All roles use a common, open model in the recently released Oracle Aconex Model Coordination. Engineering and design WIP and construction and operations and maintenance can now communicate seamlessly on critical issue resolution and BIM standards validation.

If a client or partner can test a process using a new technology in a real, working environment rather than on the actual project, they can potentially avoid or mitigate problems.

BIM, the digital twin, and CDE methodology will continue to evolve and improve, as will other emerging technologies.

Visit here for more information about the Oracle Construction and Engineering Innovation Lab.

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