FOSS4G 2022 academic track

Digital Twin 3D Platform for collaborative representation and editing of IFC documents applied to the BIM methodology
2022-08-24, 12:15–12:20 (Europe/Rome), Room Hall 3A

The Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) cluster in Portugal is a knowledge and competence aggregator platform in the construction sector, which aims to promote business competitiveness through research activities. The AEC sector is characterized by high levels of competence, being able to respond to the rigor and demands of international standards imposed by the world's leading industry leaders. This sector represents 2.2% of the Portuguese GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and aims to increase exports and qualified employment, promote international visibility, strengthen skills, promote the creation of partnerships and cooperation. It is of central importance for the national economy, being responsible for 350 thousand jobs, 19.9 billion euros in turnover and 4.5 billion euros in exports.
Currently, the AEC sector lacks tools for digitization, being forced to resort to proprietary software and closed file formats with complex and highly expensive licensing models. Thus, new opportunities arise for the creation of tools, resources and knowledge that promote the renewal and impetus of the entire sector. It is intended to develop a project that can respond to these needs, through the development of a 3D Digital Twin platform, a digital replica of a physical entity, for collaborative representation and editing of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) documents, a format with a digital description of construction industry assets, applied to the Building Information Modelling (BIM) methodology, a methodology that aims to concentrate project information in a digital way in order to incorporate all its participants.
Presently, the AEC sector in Portugal is in need of products, processes and services that enhance collaboration, training and innovation in the sector to compete in the global market. Dependence on proprietary tools for the design of AEC projects, using closed file formats with complex and highly expensive licensing models, reveals an opportunity for new tools that can interact collaboratively based on standards driven by the AEC community itself. Thus, with the arising of the IFC interoperable format for the BIM methodology, it is necessary to develop universal access tools, capable of representing and editing 3D BIM models through a collaborative, interactive and real-time platform following international standards and specifications. These market opportunities, associated with the digital transition of the AEC sector, attract multiple stakeholders to this new reality, and produces a set of initiatives that foster competitiveness within the sector. However, the approach to these problems remains faithful to a matrix of classic solutions in this sector, in which the offer of products is based on highly specialized desktop software, and whose use of the IFC standards is only to guarantee operability with other systems, through the import/export of IFC files and not their direct handling. Hence, opportunities emerge for companies that seek to develop functionalities that permit handling IFC files through Web tools with universal access that allow responding to the requirements and needs of the AEC sector. What currently makes it difficult to create these Web applications, in addition to the various problems already mentioned, is the complexity associated with reading and writing IFC files, and performance issues related to Web applications, mainly caused by poor memory management when reading or writing large documents.
This article focuses on the development of an innovative web platform based on the concept of Digital Twin with 3D digital models, permanently updated, enhanced with information, which allows the knowledge of the back-office work reality, in real-time, and facilitates the decision-making process, including the constant adjustment of resource allocation and development of production processes under optimal conditions, and the overlap of the virtual domain with the physical domain.
The developed solution is a cross-platform web application that has all base requirements of a standard BIM platform, plus georeferencing of IFC documents using orthophoto maps and free access to base cartography. From this innovative web platform, in addition to the representation of 3D IFC files, analysis of metadata, and measuring elements of the 3D Model, these also stand out as technological breakthroughs of the sector: handling large files, georeferencing the 3D Model with map support, performing operations in the model for example adding elements from external catalogues, removing elements, updating elements geometry (rotation, scaling, translation) and metadata (properties and relations).
The present work sets itself as a part of a mobilizing project, called REV@CONSTRUCTION. REV@CONSTRUCTION is a project financed by Portugal 2020 that aims to develop solutions for a digital transformation of companies in the AEC sector, with the aim of promoting its competitiveness and sustainable growth, as well as strategic dissemination with the sector at European level.
This project established as its main goal, finding and providing digital solutions to the industry in the AEC sector, involving architects and designers, and construction and project management companies. Its R&D activities are directed to the development of digital tools linked to key aspects of the sector, but also to develop and provide the methodological bases of standardization, organization, and management of information necessary for the implementation of the BIM and Digital Twin methodology in Portugal, applied to the construction and asset management of buildings and infrastructures.
In this context, the focus is on defining bases of standardization across the sector, such as the establishment of construction technical information, information models and BIM object libraries, and a national cost database, which aim to eliminate the barrier between methodology and modelling tools and the production of standard specifications, thus leading to increased effectiveness and efficiency of construction processes and reduction of public context costs, by standardizing practices and procedures throughout the various stages of the construction process.
Through these integrative, cross-cutting, and structuring initiatives, the group of 22 entities involved in this project, from companies to universities or reference research institutes in Portugal, want to mobilize the AEC sector for the Digital Revolution. This project has an investment of 8.2 million euros being financed by Portugal 2020.