BIM vs. Digital Twin: What Is the Core Difference?

June 1, 2023
BIM vs. Digital Twin: What Is the Core Difference?

Both these methodologies have been in practice for a long time. BIM has been around for over 40 years, and Digital Twin for over a dozen years, and yet only recently did their popularity increase. 

Why? Digitalization. 

Businesses of all sizes and skins have understood how leveraging digital technologies can benefit them in the long run. In due process, removing the shadows that obscured these game-changing technologies. 

We will be diving deep into both technologies in this blog, evaluating each to understand their strengths and weaknesses and of course, their differences. 

So let's get started. 

What is Building Information Modeling (BIM)?

BIM is a software that helps design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure projects. 

Primarily used in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (or simply AEC), BIM provides a digital representation of a building with its physical and functional characteristics. The characteristics include geometry, spatial relationships, light analysis, and more. 

What is BIM?

Take a look at the benefits of using BIM in your construction project. 

  • Reduces human errors saving time and money

  • AEC experts and owners can predict potential risks and failures

  • Streamline complex design operations and enable better project planning. 

  • Build energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly infrastructure 

  • Better decision-making with centralized real-time data of the project. 

The Key Components of BIM 

1. 3D Modeling

The 3D modeling component of BIM software helps create the digital representation of the building. The 3D model provides detailed information about the building's various components, such as

  1. Structural and architectural elements

  2. Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems, 

  3. And other building systems 

2. Information Management

The information management system of BIM allows AEC experts and stakeholders to share data and work on it in real-time. Stakeholders can also access different types of data, such as BIM models, drawings, specifications, and many more., from a centralized location.

Consequently, AEC experts can easily manage large volumes of data and make informed decisions. 

3. Collaboration

Collaboration and communication are two integral parts of project management. And BIM allows AEC experts to share and edit data in real-time, facilitating collaboration. Doing so helps AEC experts to streamline workflow and enable better decision-making. 

BIM also provides a centralized platform for all project data, meaning easy access to the collected data. 

Applications of BIM in Construction and Infrastructure Projects

The following are the major applications of BIM in the field of construction and infrastructure. 

1. Structural Engineering

Since BIM offers 3D models with various proprietary formats and enables adding time and cost data, it is widely used in structural engineering. 

Moreover, BIM helps structural engineers efficiently analyze geometry, material properties, loading conditions, and more. 

2. Reinforced Concrete Models

Reinforced concrete design and rebar detailing can be done in 3D using rebar detailing software. This software also allows precise modeling and tracking of every structural member. As a result, it makes it easier and more efficient to create automated rebar drawings, details, and lists. 

3. Infrastructure and Architecture Design

Using BIM, architects, and collaborators can create 3D models of buildings and infrastructure designs to visualize the product better. BIM also allows them to collaborate and work from a single platform to the most efficient, sustainable design. 

4. Faculty Management

By centralizing the project data, BIM helps you to create a detailed maintenance schedule for the project. Also, BIM can monitor equipment performance, detect issues, and provide predictive maintenance recommendations. Doing so enables you to take proactive steps to avoid downtime and reduce maintenance costs. 

In addition to maintenance, it can also be used to manage the overall facility. This includes space management, energy management, and asset management.

What is Digital Twin?

Digital Twin is a virtual replica of an asset that simulates real-world behavior. 

A digital twin can be used to analyze the entire lifecycle of a physical asset. From the concept of a product or an entity to its development, production, operation, and maintenance, the digital twin can offer endless support.

In addition, modern digital twin technology allows designers to test and validate physical assets in various real-world scenarios with the help of sensors and IoT devices. So digital twin offers a set of innovative features that helps designers monitor the performance of a building or asset in real time. 

Following are some of the main benefits of having a Digital Twin:

  • Improved design and engineering of the product.

  • Allows predictive maintenance to avoid downtime and increase asset lifespan.

  • Optimize performance allowing for continuous improvement and efficiency gains.

  • Identify potential issues and risks, allowing for proactive risk mitigation.

  • Improved collaboration between stakeholders.

Follow the link to learn more about digital twins in construction.

Key Components of Digital Twin

1. IoT Integration

IoT sensors and tracking devices can receive data from real assets and transfer it to the digital twin and vice versa. This way, digital twins allow stakeholders to monitor and analyze data in real time. 

2. Data and Analytics

Digital Twins can store detailed information about a building or system from multiple sources. Leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning analyzes these data and generates actionable insights. As a result, this key component allows manufacturers to gain more insights into their products and predict outcomes like never before. 

3. Predictive Analysis

Predictive analysis is another key component of the digital twin that helps stakeholders to manage the maintenance and operations of the asset effectively. With the help of different types of sensors, the digital twin can predict and avoid potential system failure by providing insights into when and what type of repair the system needs. 

Also, take a look at the difference between preventive and predictive maintenance.

4. Simulation

This allows project owners to test a process or a physical system in different real-life conditions. As a result, manufacturers can develop the best and most efficient production methodology and prevent potential failures. 

Applications of Digital Twin in Various Industries

1. Manufacturing

Digital twins are used in manufacturing industries to streamline the design process and test product performance. In addition, digital twins are also applied in other aspects of manufacturing, such as predictive maintenance, operations management, employee collaboration, etc. 

2. Healthcare

In healthcare, the digital twin is used for designing and optimizing personalized medical devices such as prosthetics, assistive technology, and surgical equipment. Digital twin technology is also employed to gather real-time patient data using wearables and sensors. 

Learn more about the role of digital twins in healthcare.

3. Smart Cities

Digital twins are effectively used in smart city planning to make it more environmentally and economically sustainable. The insights obtained from the digital twin regarding building models and infrastructure allow city planners to make informed decisions and improve the quality of citizen's life. 

4. Retail

Digital twins are widely used to improve customer service and deliver personalized products to customers. For example, retailers can provide perfect clothing accessories to customers by evaluating their digital twin models.

5. Automobiles and Aerospace

With digital twins, aerospace engineers can test and validate the performances of airframes, engines, and other components to ensure the safety of passengers. Similarly, digital twins are also used in automobile industries for designing and analyzing various automotive products. 

BIM vs. Digital Twin: Key Differences

1. Focus

BIM primarily focuses on designing, constructing, and managing built assets. It emphasizes collaboration among various stakeholders to streamline the design, construction, and maintenance processes. 

Digital Twins go beyond design and construction, focusing on the entire lifecycle of a built asset, including maintenance, operations, and end-of-life decommissioning. The primary goal of Digital Twins is to optimize asset performance, reduce operating costs, and enhance user experiences.

2. Scope

The scope of BIM covers multiple stages of the building lifecycle. This includes planning, design, construction, and operation. It is a digital representation of a facility's physical and functional characteristics. 

BIM integrates different data types related to a building, such as geometry, spatial relationships, and material properties. As a result, BIM models can be used for various purposes, such as design analysis, clash detection, cost estimation, and scheduling.

Digital Twins create a dynamic, real-time digital replica of a physical asset. The physical assets can include buildings, infrastructure, and even entire cities. This virtual model integrates data from various sources, such as sensors, IoT devices, historical data, and maintenance records. 

By connecting this information, Digital Twins enable advanced analytics, simulation, and predictive maintenance, ultimately aiding in decision-making and performance optimization.

3. Data

BIM primarily relies on static data to digitally represent a building or infrastructure. This data is usually collected during the planning, design, and construction stages and may include the following. 

  1. Geometric Data of the building. This includes the building components' shape, size, and spatial relationships.

  2. Material Properties of the built asset, such as their physical properties, cost, and appearance.

  3. Data related to structural elements, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

  4. Information on building codes, standards, and design requirements.

This static data is then integrated into the BIM model and serves as a reference point for various stakeholders involved in the project. However, once the construction is completed, the BIM model may not be updated frequently, and the data remains relatively constant.

In contrast to BIM, Digital Twins leverage dynamic, real-time data to create an up-to-date digital replica of a physical asset. These data sources are continuously updated and may include the following.

  1. Collect sensor data/information from various sensors and IoT devices installed in the building. This information can include temperature, humidity, occupancy, energy consumption, and more.

  2. Operational data related to the daily operation of the building, including HVAC performance, equipment status, and maintenance records.

  3. User feedback data from occupants and users of the building. This feedback can provide actionable insights into their experience and satisfaction levels.

  4. Environmental data, such as weather conditions, that impact the building's performance is collected. 

The dynamic nature of the data used in Digital Twins allows for real-time monitoring, analytics, and decision-making. This continuous flow of information enables stakeholders to optimize asset performance, predict and prevent issues, and improve overall user experience.

BIM vs Digital Twin: A Quick Comparison

CriteriaBIMDigital Twin
PurposeTo visualize the construction process and optimize design plansTo test and validate assets in different conditions, predict and prevent equipment failures, manage maintenance and operations, etc.
DataDimensions and functional characteristics of buildingReal-time data based on the performance, condition, and usage of asset
ScopeDesign and construction phaseEntire life-cycle of an asset
ApplicationsConstruction and architectureHealthcare, manufacturing, retail, smart cities, automotive, and more.

Suggested read: Smart Homes (IoT): How IoT help our lives? 

Integrating BIM and Digital Twin

Though they both have differences, combining the two technologies can do wonders. By integrating BIM with Digital Twin, you can get the combined benefit of a model-based approach and real-time monitoring. Also, the integration can help identify and address design and construction issues early. As a result, it leads to more efficient and cost-effective project delivery. 

Following are a few ways we can get the combined benefits of both. 

1. Improved design and construction 

ACE experts can create a detailed representation of the building with BIM models. And by enriching these models with additional data, they can create a Digital Twin that can simulate the building's behavior and performance. 

Doing so can help identify and resolve potential risks beforehand and complete the project faster. 

2. Enhanced collaboration

BIM and Digital Twins can enable improved collaboration among project stakeholders. BIM centralizes the project data, making it easy to access and share. Digital Twin, on the other hand, can help facilitate the collaboration between stakeholders during the operation and maintenance of the building. By enhancing collaboration, stakeholders can make informed decisions and improve project outcomes. 

3. Improved facility management

Digital Twins can be used for ongoing facility management, enabling owners and operators to monitor building performance and identify potential issues. This can lead to reduced maintenance costs and improved occupant comfort and safety.

4. Optimized energy consumption

Digital Twins can simulate and optimize a building's energy consumption. This can help reduce energy costs and improve environmental sustainability.

5. Real-time monitoring

You can understand your building's performance with Digital Twin's real-time monitoring. This further helps with predictive maintenance and reduces the risk of equipment failure. As a result, it improves the building's performance and reduces downtime.

 Case Study: Predictive Maintenance System to Prevent Malfunctioning Machines

Real-World Examples Of Integrated Bim And Digital Twin Solutions In Construction And Infrastructure Projects

When integrated properly, BIM and digital twins can do wonders in construction and infrastructure projects. Here are some real-world examples:

1. Heathrow Airport

The airport stakeholders of Heathrow Airport in London employ an integrated BIM and digital twin solution to gather insights regarding airport life cycle data for actionable insights. In doing so, they experienced cost savings, risk reductions, and many other benefits.

An example of a live digital twin airport model from SITA Lab

Corey Gray, the global CEO of Smart Cities Council, says that the digital twin of the airport helped them gather insights about the foot traffic in an entire day in different spaces in an airport. Identifying high-traffic areas enabled them to make informed decisions and improve passenger experiences.

2. Sydney Opera House

ariel view of sydney opera house

One of the world's iconic structures, the Sydney Opera House, was constructed in 1973 for $102 million AUS! The Business Information Modelling Academy started a collaboration with the Sydney Opera House in 2013 to improve the operational and cost efficiencies of the building.

The experts created a web-based BIM4FM interface coupled with a BIM model of the building, which helped them improve the visitor experience and operational and maintenance activities. This way, the Opera House stopped its outdated data collection method and started relying on technologies to enhance building operations and maintenance.

Follow the link to see more examples of digital twins.

Toobler is Making Digital Twin and BIM Suites More Powerful

BIM and Digital Twins play a crucial role in the advancement of the AEC industry. Though they have their differences, especially in the area of focus, scope of work, and the type of data collected. But together, they have the potential to revolutionize the way we conceive, build, and maintain our built environment.

As these technologies advance and become more intertwined, the boundary between BIM and Digital Twin may become even more blurred. 

But one of the challenges businesses face today is finding or hiring laborers with the right tech skill. Since creating, implementing, and maintaining Digital twins require high-end tech knowledge, hiring an in-house team can be daunting. Not to mention expensive. 

So how to overcome this challenge? Outsource the work to the best digital twin development company. 

With the right digital twin experts by your side, you can get the following benefits. 

  • Work with professionals and industry experts to develop, implement and maintain your digital twin. 

  • You can leverage the resources and infrastructure of these experts to build the digital twin. This way, you can avoid hiring and training employees and purchasing software licenses, reducing the overall costs. 

  • You can ensure the timely delivery of your digital twin because of the proper team and time management process put in place. 

  • Get assistance with updates, troubleshoot issues, and optimize the digital twin over time. As a result, you can ensure the digital twin's continued effectiveness and alignment with the organization's goals.

  • Also, you can focus more on your company's competencies by outsourcing your digital twin development. This can free up valuable resources and enable them to concentrate on their primary business objectives.

Searching for a digital twin expert? Look no further than Toobler. We have experience and expertise in developing digital twins across various industries. 

Ready to unlock the full potential of digital twin technology for your business? Get in touch with us now and start your journey towards smarter, more efficient operations with Toobler's cutting-edge digital twin solutions!