A ‘system-of-systems’ approach to meet a Net Zero vision through digital twins
- Project duration: September 2022 - October 2023
- Funder: Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (LTRF)
- Project members: Dr Eleni Papadonikolaki
- More details: https://raeng.org.uk/news/leverhulme-trust-research-fellowships-awarded-for-work-that-promises-benefits-to-society-and-economy-1
The Triple Bottom Line (3BL) of people, planet and profit (or societal/environmental/economic sustainability) is perennially industry-relevant. However, businesses predominately focus on profit-driven/economic sustainability and less on environmental and social sustainability, putting aside the wellbeing of people and planetary health, amidst climate threats. The Net-Zero vision addresses the people and planetary 3BL goals. In 2019, the United Kingdom (UK) became the first G7 country to legislate for Net-Zero, targeting 2050 Net-Zero carbon emissions. The Built Environment (BE) is a key contributor to emissions, as buildings and construction accounted for 39% of carbon dioxide in 2018.
Digital Twins (DT) can assist the UK to meet its Net-Zero targets. Digital Engineering encompasses technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Internet of Things (loT) and data analytics that all contribute in effective DTs – a novel concept for BE. Various definitions of DTs in the BE have been proposed. Despite common misconceptions, DTs are not one-size-fits-all solutions based on BIM and three-dimensional representation but vary depending on input sources and output goals, designed for specific purposes, e.g., energy use, consumption/user behaviour, weather, asset resilience monitoring.
This project focuses on the front-end of DTs in buildings to design DT system requirements for Net-Zero, safeguarding people that rely on critical infrastructure to safely survive and maintain good a quality of life in a diverse society. First, the project will explore parallels between DTs in aircraft manufacturing (a mature DTusing sector with emphasis on high-performing assets) to identify best practices and challenges transferrable to buildings. Second, through design science research and a ‘system-of-systems’ (SoS) view to organise complexity, remove silos, integrate different input/data and link to the National DT, a software architecture and business process for Net-Zero DTs will be designed. This project will create new knowledge to develop DTs for meeting Net-Zero targets supporting the 3BL.