Skip to Content
View site list


Pre-Bid Projects

Pre-Bid Projects

Click here to see Canada’s most comprehensive listing of projects in conceptual and planning stages


AECO, university collaboration to explore how digital twins impact building lifecycle

Angela Gismondi
AECO, university collaboration to explore how digital twins impact building lifecycle

A new research project is looking to investigate and address the challenges in developing, implementing and using digital twins for regulatory agencies.

AECO Innovation Lab is partnering with four Canadian universities across the country on the project, entitled AI-enabled Digital Twins for Automation of Regulatory Systems in the Built Environment.

The goal of the project is to spur innovation and digital transformation in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors (AEC) as well as associated government sectors, explained Mark Anderson, director of business development with AECO Innovation Lab.

The project will examine how innovation and digital tools and technology can be used to transform and enhance the development approval processes. It will also explore how BIM and digital twins can be leveraged in Canadian regulatory agencies to allow for better, more informed decision-making.

“The goal is to bring the province, the federal government and municipal governments to the table to understand not only the benefits that digital twins can bring but also to help us catch up with where the AEC world is moving, but also where the rest of the world and other jurisdictions that are leading in this space have gone,” said Anderson.

“Internationally there are definitely examples of jurisdictions that have moved this way already. Canada is very far behind in this space. There is a lot of catching up to do but the good news is others have done it already so we can take some of those best practices and lessons learned.”

The five-year, $1.32-million project is being funded by AECO and the Mitacs Accelerate Grants Program. Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that facilitates collaboration between Canada’s private sector and post-secondary institutions. Work on the project will begin in January.

The research will be conducted in co-ordination with all levels of government and industry experts in BIM, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), real estate, built asset development and management, and sustainability.

“BIM is really about the building, GIS is really about the place in which that building exists,” Anderson said. “They’re starting to really be utilized within the AEC space but not so much so in agencies like municipalities and conservation authorities. What we’re looking at doing is exploring how digital twins within regulatory agencies can bring massive value to jurisdictions and to government.”

Partners on the joint research project include Carleton University, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), École de technologie supérieure (ETS) Montreal and the University of British Columbia (UBC). Experts involved in the project include Stephen Fai from the Carleton University Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism, Érik Poirier from ETS Montréal, Sheryl Staub-French from UBC, and David Amborski from TMU.

The research itself has two main streams. The first is looking at the technical challenges that regulatory agencies have to resolve to accommodate the creation of digital twins.

“Municipalities own a lot of buildings, different government agencies own a lot of buildings, so there is a lot of value that can be created and gathered by having that digital twin from an asset management perspective,” Anderson said. “It’s about understanding how do we manage that building better operationally over the next 20, 30 or 50 years.”

The second stream is looking at the economic, environmental and social challenges that can be addressed by digital twins such as visualizing land and building investments, predicting affordable housing needs, looking at developing sustainable cities, aiding in municipal operations, said Anderson.

“How does a new potential building interact with the rest of the environment, the buildings around it, the traffic flow?

“Currently it’s a lot of gut feeling, but by having the digital twin in place you can actually start to do some analysis of how that is going to impact how the city works and operates and exists and how your community is going to deal with new infrastructure as it comes in.”

One of the challenges with BIM, especially on the regulatory side of things, is there are some international standards such as ISO 19650, but it’s never been contextualized to the Canadian environment.

“There are definitely standards that are needed in order to gain the full benefit, especially at a scalable level,” Anderson said. “If a particular municipality decided they wanted to bring BIM into play they tell the developers that they are working with to do something a certain way but then a new developer comes in and they are working with another municipality that has different standards, suddenly you’re not comparing apples to apples. There needs to be a mechanism and we see that as being standards, in place to make sure that everybody’s calling something that exists the same thing and that they understand the requirements around it.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela

Recent Comments

comments for this post are closed

You might also like