By Dave Clifton
Geographic Information System (GIS) data is becoming more and more a pillar of building architecture and life cycle maintenance. Unsurprisingly, it’s led to the rise of geospatial digital twins as part of building governance. These systems represent the pinnacle of a data-driven approach to building oversight and bring broad context to virtually any quantifiable physical attribute someone might want to know.
From the numbers of floors to the year it was built, geospatial twins take a bevy of contextual data about a building and combine it all into one comprehensive representation. And, because that representation is digital, the possibilities for integration are infinite. Maintenance teams can review deep insights about the building itself, while portfolio managers can evaluate the building as part of a portfolio—each for the purpose of making data-driven decisions about building management.
While extremely insightful, geospatial digital twins and the GIS data that populates them are equally as complex. Here’s a quick primer on what they are, how they work, and why they’re growing in importance.
What is geospatial digital twin?
A geospatial digital twin is a digital model of a building extrapolated from many different data fields—specifically, GIS data. Where a digital twin is a virtual mirror of a building and its systems, adding GIS brings quantifiable elements into the fold. For example, you’re not just looking at a floor plan; you’re looking at a floor plan in context with the measurements of the space and the position of its unique elements in space.
GIS data goes beyond the building itself. A geospatial twin represents the building within the context of its surroundings. How many meters from the road is the front door? How tall is the building compared to the closest nearby structure? How far above sea level is the building located? The sheer abundance of GIS data informs a geospatial model that bring far-ranging context to the digital twin.
What does geospatial digital twin do?
There are endless possibilities for what geospatial twins are capable of. But what are they practical for? According to Esri, the global leader in geographic information system software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications:
Geospatial technology interconnects information, systems, models, and behaviors with spatial context, creating holistic digital representations of environments, assets, networks, and cities.
In simpler terms: geospatial twins harness GIS data into usable information. Why does it matter how far above sea level the building is? Well, it could inform how an HVAC tech services your building’s heating system—or the type of system best-suited to replace an aging one. Who cares about the building’s distance from the road? You might, if it impedes your plans to expand the atrium outwards. GIS data offers practical insights; the geospatial twin brings this data into context.
How geospatial digital twin can help a company
From a practical standpoint, there are an abundance of opportunities for using geospatial twins to harness broad data. Many vital business plans and operational aspects are predicated on GIS data in some way, shape, or form.
- Emergency planning. The fastest and safest escape plan comes from understanding the layout of a building from a fundamental standpoint. Likewise, GIS can inform interoffice emergency planning in the event a threat is external—like inclement weather.
- Risk management. GIS data allows for incident modeling and risk management. If you understand the variables of your building and its surroundings, it becomes easier to plan for avoidable situations or for unwanted eventualities.
- Utility optimization. Are solar panels a conducive investment for your building? How much is inclement weather affecting your power systems, i.e. outages? GIS information can correlate variables to show a clearer picture of utilities and how to optimize them.
- Health and wellness. Environmental factors have a huge effect on people’s health. Employers can use GIS data to create new workplace initiatives that improve health—everything from workplace design to amenities offered. On-site gym, anyone?
- Digital transformation. A geospatial twin builds out the bedrock for an expanding IoT network within your building and beyond. The more devices incorporated, the more information available and the broader the insights about a building and its surroundings.
Above all, GIS data and geospatial digital twins unlock better decision-making opportunities. Building managers with access to these data systems and the broad insights they offer stand poised to make better, more informed decisions about everything from the building itself to the operations within it.
GIS data unlocks smart building potential
As buildings become smarter, the systems that govern them need to get smarter. GIS data and the digital twins they inform represent a trend in the right direction. While the IoT and other networked systems pave the way for office operational insights, GIS and geospatial twins provide a backdrop for these insights within the context of a digitally proportionate building. Together, stakeholders have a clear representation of facilities and everything within them.
With so much data and the broad context that follows it, companies can unlock amazing potential for improvements—to both buildings and the operations within them. It’s all part of the continuum of smart building technology.
Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software