How to build up a Digital Twin

When asked, most people will say the key element to a building’s digital twin is allowing owners to understand building performance in real time.

But how do you get to this point from where you are now?

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You might have some 2D CAD plans and a bit of asset data in an Excel spreadsheet.

The key enabler which will allow you to evaluate the performance of your building and your estate is data – geometric data, asset data, associated O&M manuals, base performance data and then you can add in live/near-live data. When collated this gives you a 360-degree view of building performance; you can compare planned versus actual, track trends/live performance fluctuations, measure the impact of strategic change, and implement an effective repair versus replace strategy.

How do you get good building or estate data?

Common challenges:

Addressing these challenges:

‘I don’t know what data I need?’

The key to all this is understanding what you want to achieve, don’t just create a digital twin for the sake of it. There is a cost to create and maintain, so you must be looking to drive benefit.

For example, one business goal may be to reduce carbon emissions. Use the digital twin to monitor emissions across the estate and monitor performance change when making changes to the type of fitted radiators/type of boiler/heating policy/door and window closing policy are made.

This makes collection of data around heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) assets key, so make sure to ask for it.

‘The contractor never gives us what we want, in the format we need.’

At the start of any building project, you must specify the data that you are need at handover, in the format that you want it. Symetri can help with this, supporting the creation of an Exchange Information Requirement (EIR) and Asset Information Requirement, which will dictate to all those involved in the design and build process the data/models/manuals and the format it will be required in. At handover Symetri can help evaluate the output to ensure the delivery is in line with the specification.

‘The data and drawings we have currently are useless.’ & ‘New buildings represent 3% of my estate, I don’t have the data I need for the other 97%’.

These two challenges are linked and are an especially common issue for those with an ageing building or estate. Building works were concluded a long time ago, before the standards (BIM, Building Safety Act, Fire Safety Standard) of today, so there isn’t much data to work with. In this circumstance the onus is on you to build up that data yourself. Depending on what you are looking to achieve you can recreate simplified CAD plans/models, conduct surveys, fully audit – outsourced or in-house - your building or estate or even look to laser scan key buildings to fully understand their geometric properties.

‘We’re charged significantly more by architects and contractors when we specify data requirements, it’s too expensive.’

An additional expense has often been the case to date. You also have to weigh that additional expense against the benefits it can bring, the expense of a post-handover audit or the costs of an inefficiently managed estate.

The additional cost may soon be a thing of the past anyway, due to architects and contractors fully adopting data capture processes for their own benefit and due to legislation. The Building Safety Act requires a much richer data set – especially around fire safety – to be captured by law before construction can be started or buildings can be occupied.


Digital Twins are built on data and most associated with ‘live’ data, but the static data collected during the build or setup process will underpin and enable the creation of an accurate Digital Twin. Make sure to align the creation of your Digital Twin with strategic goals to ensure collection and surfacing of data is worthwhile and valuable.