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Sustainability – How we transform the business paradigm through new technologies: From BIM via Digital Twin to the Metaverse10 min. de citit

Article signed by Cătălin Podaru, General Manager of the Leviatan Design & Ubitech Construcții group of companies.

In the past, mankind’s socio-economic organization did not have such significant impact on the environment and ecosystem. However, after the industrial revolution, things accelerated, and we can now speak of an Anthropocene Era at planetary level, where human activities, as well as relationships and interactions between people, have a direct and visible impact on the environment.

In recent years, and particularly in the last year, given the rapid societal changes in relation to climate, environment, resources, and overall quality of life, sustainability has become one of the most important concerns of international decision-makers, strongly underscored by the concrete decisions of nations at COP26 Glasgow.

Sustainability is no longer just an ideal, but has become a need, which implies transforming the social and economic paradigm, including the business paradigm. Specifically, if in the past the principles of business management assumed efficiency and effectiveness through a breakdown of activities and resources in relation to proposed isolated objectives, now, applying the sustainability paradigm implies integrating isolated systems into a holistic approach. This new management method allows the understanding and integration of activities, interactions, and overlaps between several systems, which are otherwise non-transparent and difficult to quantify.

For us, the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform has been the necessary tool to unify stakeholders around the project. By working in the Common Data Environment from Autodesk Construction Cloud (known by the acronym CDE), processes, data, paper, roles, and project versions are transposed and stored in digital format, in a common workspace, the single source of truth for the project.

The construction field, which has a major impact on both the economy and the development of human society, faces the relevant issue of complexity. This is reflected in the difficulty of integrating into a manageable system the traceability of the flow of interactions between economic agents – from the moment of resource extraction, to transport and the processing of construction materials – which are then part of projects by discipline that are to be put into operation on the construction site for the realization of the construction and then compared to the analysis of the performance of segregated activities.

Moreover, the design and realization of a construction, a built space, must meet, like a separate micro-system, both sustainability requirements in relation to energy consumption, environmental impact, as well as safety in operation and wellbeing over periods from 50 to 100 years and sometimes even longer.

To be able to apply this holistic approach to the entire construction process, integrated management and collaboration tools are needed, similar to the natural model, which allow transparent access to information and interactions between all agents involved in the realization and exploitation of a building until its decommissioning.

The BIM (Building Information Model) concept comes to the fore as a complex and currently unique tool that allows managing this holistic approach by creating a space and a virtual model where all these resources with their specifications can be integrated, as well as the interactions throughout the life cycle of a construction.

We consider the Common Data Environment a concept where the 3D informational model of the building can become a digital twin infused with real information. This is the optimal method and tool that allows holistic management of the information flow, where actors and beneficiaries can issue and apply sustainability requirements, with iterations and complex implications over a very long period of time, imposing on the entire construction flow, integrated Governance, traceability, and persistence. This Governance will transcend the local performance interests of each economic agent or beneficiary.

The governance of sustainability throughout the process highlights new sources of punctual and global profitability, revealing at the same time, a new type of capital, namely Natural Capital. This refers to thewell-being of society in direct relation to nature and the direct benefits that monetary capital cannot replace and, eminently, not even intermediate.

Thus, for us, Leviatan Design, as a design firm, using an informational model of the designed space in the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform represents the optimal tool where we can introduce Governance rules, starting from rules related to the data sheets of the materials to be implemented, the level of energy efficiency or carbon footprint in the production phase of these materials, and also the conditions of implementation during construction. Moreover, during the design, execution, and operation process, the governance of sustainable principles can be integrated and monitored as Input – Output of all actors participating in this system, in a transparent and traceable manner having permanence over time. This traceability and permanence of actions, but also complex interactions with the economic and financial side can now be integrated and monitored, offering each of the actors (stakeholders) access to the necessary information at the right time, as well as the rules that each must respect in interactions throughout the life cycle of the building and building operation.

Together with our partner, Graitec Romania – Platinum Autodesk reseller in Romania, who has been with us and supported us from the beginning of the digitalization process, we managed to identify the solutions most suitable for our field of activity, but also to customize them according to the specific requirements of our projects, in order to achieve the assumed sustainability objectives.

To make things clearer, we will generally exemplify a few specific situations and benefits of using an informational model of the building in CDE-Autodesk Construction Cloud.

Beneficiaries issue requirements for efficient energy use, minimal carbon impact, reduced maintenance costs, and a high level of occupant well-being.

Firstly, the beneficiary of the building will issue the operational and functional requirements of it and the performance objectives. These requirements could involve energy efficiency, minimal carbon footprint, reduced maintenance costs, and a high level of occupant wellbeing.

First and foremost, the building’s beneficiary will issue the operational and functional requirements of the building and the performance objectives they wish to achieve during operation. The designers translate these requirements by creating the 3D informational model of the building in the Common Data Environment (CDE). In this ecosystem, all quality flows and collaboration between disciplines can be imposed, ensuring visibility for the beneficiary. Furthermore, using topographical scanning tools, databases are generated that contain real-world information about the terrain, urban planning, and existing built environment, allowing for quick and immersive verification of urban planning requirements and functional and aesthetic implications.

Without a technical background or specialized training, the Beneficiary, as well as other involved parties (other stakeholders), can immerse themselves in the future project with specifications integrated into the existing terrain and built space.

These simulations, useful in the first phase to designers and execution managers, can be made available through the use of virtual reality and augmented reality tools with software used in the company such as Enscape and tools like Hololens, for conscious decision-making by all actors, whether we are talking about the Beneficiary, User, Investor, and even authorities in the near future.

The conscious acceptance of the optimal version of the project in which all initially stated and subsequently added objectives for optimizing energy consumption and environmental impact will make this informational model an INPUT for material suppliers and service providers, as well as a platform for transparently carrying out the necessary procurement, approval, and implementation flows within the allocated budgets.

The builder and consultant (the beneficiary’s representative) can easily monitor all objectives and specifications of suppliers in a way that ensures real-time traceability and responsibility, thus reducing friction and bureaucracy.

During construction, the involvement of suppliers and service providers in the CDE will unify the flows and facilitate the monitoring of implementation while complying with all quality and environmental protection rules, a useful aspect for consultancy and project management.

Therefore, the consultant, also having access to this platform for the informational model, can add his own flows in relation to the construction of the building and can produce all documents in an easy, transparent, and permanent way.

During execution, our managers at Ubitech apply their own flows in the CDE on the informational model and can make all observations and requests for remediation of their non-compliance in real time, with traceability both in relation to design, suppliers, service providers with environmental requirements, but also with the evidence of costs and allocation of resources over time for the construction of the building. Also, the specific execution flows, which can be applied to the informational model, involve all departments – from procurement to rollout to settlement in a unified and integrated space with site teams.

The use of the informational model in the CDE has allowed us to improve the quality of projects and make better use of resources. At this point, we can estimate a time reduction of about 50% in many of the processes specific to the design activity. We have also recorded time efficiency in the execution phase, by reducing by up to 30% the time spent on quality checks, health and safety measures, communication with site teams, and generating related documents.

Customized prefabrication of construction elements and robotization begin with BIM, which is a viable solution to the lack of workforce.

One example would be that, by using the informational model in the CDE, suppliers of prefabricates or elements needed to be customized and delivered to the site can import information into their own production flow to deliver the necessary materials for the construction as quickly and optimized as possible.

The DIGITAL TWIN represents more than just a digital replica of the construction, it is the history of the construction.

By scanning the building at different stages of execution and integrating this information in the CDE along with issue management, there is a clear traceability of the building’s evolution and acomplete “As Built” report upon which commissioning and handover flows can be implemented for the certification of work quality and the achievement of objectives for operation.

Given that the principle of sustainability must be applied throughout the life and operation of the building, the complete 3D BIM model of the building’s design and execution will prove to be of great value in the operation phase as advanced facility management solutions and relevant BIG DATA analysis information can be applied to it. This data reveals new sources and models of profitability from the most substantial part of the investment, namely the operation and decommissioning period, with cost reductions through energy efficiency, automation, robotization, and staff reduction.

The Autodesk Construction Cloud solution together with the AEC suite comes with a holistic approach to the construction industry, and beyond, laying the foundations of a genuine Metaverse where buildings come to life at a 7D level before changes are materialized.

Using the Autodesk Construction Cloud Platform and the AEC suite provided by Autodesk has allowed our working group, both in the design phase and in the execution phase, a holistic approach to the construction process, an integration of decisions regardless of location and specific interests by providing continuously evolving software tools. The importance of this solution allows for the generation of a general governance over the project’s realization method, as well as the integration of collaborators’ processes and flows in it. AEC solutions and the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform are for us the basic tool in the realization of the design and execution process, but also of Commissioning and Handover. Through this tool, our group of companies wants to realize projects and services with new valences of quality and added value for all stakeholders and for the entire life period of the projects.