BIM, digital and data twin: the future of buildings and the connected city - With Sophie Lérault
In this interview, we will discuss with Sophie Lérault, specialist in the issue of digital in buildings and urban environments, a different and complementary perspective of the role and implementation of data and BIM in our direct urban environment. We will see what actions to encourage to optimize the winning duo of the digital world / the building world. It will also be a question of training, the future role of data, the city of tomorrow and how to understand these new realities.
Sophie will share with us the need to adopt an angle of view at the service of Humanity and the environment in which technology will improve expectations in terms of services, pedagogy and user well-being. “A connected city is a sustainable, inclusive city, participating in the social bond”.
Collaboration between stakeholders, pioneers in this approach, but also educational and school referentials have a role to play in understanding and democratizing the approach to digital issues.
It is a topical subject which mobilizes a lot the actors of BIM and construction. A vision that we share with you today in this HEXABIM interview.
Do not hesitate to react in comments under the article!
Let's start with your Sophie journey!
I have been working at onepoint for almost 2 years, where until very recently I had two professions: manager of the onepoint school and consultant on smart city and building projects.
My professional career has allowed me to gradually acquire the skills of project or program manager and entity management. I also learned a lot from expert professionals on aspects related to the sustainable design of buildings, BIM, PCI (Integrated Design Process), sustainable design labels and for 5 years, on digital in general. I am now converging between building and digital and since December 2020, I am on an SBMS (Smart Building Management System) mission for a large intelligent building abroad where my role covers program management, governance integration program and PCI, support for the BIM Data Manager and support for certification processes (Well, Leed, R2S, etc.).
“BIM, digital twin and data: we need to change the paradigm”. Is this a new way of approaching BIM, a look from a different point of view?
At the beginning, when we started to deploy BIM in architectural firms in particular, on projects in the design phase, it was “easy” (in quotes). Today, we arrive on the complex part. Why ? Because BIM has a main purpose which is to serve as a base for the future digital twin of the building.
If you make BIM models only for 3D visualization, this is of limited interest. BIM takes on its full meaning in the operational phase. When we enter the operational phase, if we want to move towards a digital twin, we have to integrate new parameters, new functionalities, all linked to the operation of buildings. It is something very complex to have to talk together of systems which are very different, which do not necessarily use the same languages, which do not necessarily have the same naming repositories to identify such and such a thing. If we want to be able to build an efficient digital twin, all these systems will have to talk to each other, or “converge”, towards a shared system.
It's something complex to build and I don't think a single operator can do it all. The building world will therefore have to move closer to the digital world and these are two worlds that, until then, had spoken very little to each other.
However, we note a rapprochement between the digital world and the building world, is this tending to democratize?
I am not sure ; what is democratizing, so to speak, is the use of BIM. This does not necessarily mean that the integration of digital is democratized.
In your opinion, would it ultimately be necessary to arrive at a sort of process common to all, to create a digital twin?
I don't think everyone should use the same approach; on the other hand, it would be good if everyone converges towards the same objective which would be to work for the construction of 1 °) a physical building and 2 °) of its digital twin.
However, each one will keep his specificity and his profession. There is no question that each one is based in the profession of the others. Architects have very specific trades, engineers and construction companies as well. Each actor has his strength. Digital experts also have a specific profession and specific knowledge.
The goal is not for everyone to share the same process, but for everyone to converge towards the same goal.
And therefore, will digital become a standard in the building industry?
In the next ten years, digital will be integrated, I think, completely into the design process.
The integration of digital will become obvious over time in buildings, just as it is the case for a car for example. And this, whatever the type of building, because digital is there to serve the well-being of the people who use buildings, to make their lives easier, it is there to offer them new services. Little by little, we will deploy these new services in a few emblematic buildings; everyone will then want to benefit from these new services as well.
This is why I think that the integration of digital into the building world is what we are aiming for in the years to come. For this transition to take place in the best way, it is necessary that all stakeholders in building design and digital design learn to work together. For now, it is still the beginning.
What about data management?
Digital tools are really there to provide new services to users. Data governance is one of the subjects that will have to be resolved, as is the security of this data. However, these are not the only subjects on which to concentrate, because it is immediately to pose a barrier, instead of trying to see the subject as a whole.
How do you see this development for the next few years? What is the route to take to achieve this democratization of collaboration between building and digital, for a deployment of the digital twin in the operational phase?
I think it will start with emblematic projects, probably new projects at the start. It is necessary that the members of the design teams, building or digital, learn to work together.
Then, digitization should also apply to existing buildings. If we only deploy digital in new buildings, digital democratization is limited. There is therefore a second challenge, which will be to support the implementation of digital twins and digital for well-being and well-being purposes also in existing buildings. And it is even more complex than in the new.
In France, are we currently sufficiently equipped in terms of technologies, software and hardware used?
Yes, we have what it takes. However, we are in the early stages of what technology can offer buildings. In the years to come, we will see the deployment of new capacities offered by artificial intelligence applied to the building world.
We have researchers in France who are at the forefront on this subject, as well as engineers of whom we can obviously be very proud.
The biggest stake is not necessarily technological, although it is as I said very complex subjects. What we have to learn to do, quickly, is to learn to work together in a different, more integrated way, more in confidence with all the actors involved.
You are responsible for the onepoint school. Through the educational aspect, how do you convey these issues to your students?
The onepoint school mainly focuses on onepoint's fields of expertise and we are at the forefront of topics related to digital transformation.
Digital can sometimes be scary, especially when we talk about artificial intelligence, some professionals fearing for the future of their profession or the limitation of their share of creativity.
The students with whom we work within the school understand and learn to master these aspects around digital. So, they don't have “this fear” that digital will negatively impact their work. What they see the most are the possibilities offered by digital technology. It is this learning that we must, in fact, share in a very broad way, both with the users of the buildings and with those involved in the project management.
At the moment, in schools whatever they are, we talk very little about digital issues. You don't learn how it can be good or bad if you misuse it.
Within the onepoint school, the question of ethics when designing a digital solution is, for example, one of the pillars of our teaching.
Currently, do you think that the future players in the construction industry are sufficiently trained on BIM, new technologies, the future possibilities that are opening up to them through digital? Or do you think that it is still necessary to modernize and update the content of vocational training for future construction professionals?
I think there is an enormous amount of work to be done in this area, it is quite specific to France, where knowledge and architectural gesture are decoupled from engineering and technology. This dichotomy does not exist in most Anglo-Saxon countries where, precisely, architects have a training which also integrates aspects related to engineering.
On the other hand, whether it is architects, engineers, or generally the construction industry, we learn very little, almost nothing at all about technology in the service of the building, digital in general, or even the process. BIM. We make specialties of them, whereas that should not be a specificity.
Digital is now something that is part of our daily life. To make it a specific skill outside the curriculum, from my point of view, that does not go in the direction of the revolution that we are going through. On the contrary, I think everyone should learn the basics. But this does not only concern the building world. Digital, data, artificial intelligence should be tackled from the early grades at school and no longer when selecting a high school or post-baccalaureate course.
Understand that artificial intelligence can be of service to us, including in the building sector, discover the possibilities that will be offered by AI to better manage our buildings, if only their energy consumption or the experience of life that we want to offer, seems to me essential to all those involved in the built environment. Our buildings are very well designed, by architects who know their profession very well, by engineers who have a perfect mastery of these subjects. As long as a building is well designed, it would still be a shame not to acquire the essential tools to operate it in a positive way for the next 50 years.
Before concluding, what is a smart city, a connected city?
A smart city starts with sustainable and smart buildings. We often hear about smart city projects around the world. There is the famous example of a smart city that did not happen: it is the Sidewalk project in Toronto. Google had mainly focused the project on the use of data from citizens who were going to live there ... without necessarily asking their consent.
A smart city may be a connected city, but it is also a sustainable, inclusive city. It is a city that encourages social ties. It is also a city that will work on participatory, mobility and digital.
There are many labels whose standards have been designed to support the design of buildings or neighborhoods in a beneficial way. Why not use them, deploy these repositories more broadly? By doing so, we would put in place from the Design phase smart, sustainable, energy-efficient buildings and cities, designed with healthy materials and including the bases of well-thought-out connectivity and digital integration. This would undoubtedly make it possible to understand the operation and digital tools in a more serene manner.
A word to conclude Sophie?
A smart and sustainable building is not a technological Christmas tree!We live in a society where people are often increasingly isolated from each other. If we put in place more and more technology, integrated in a non-concerted manner, not necessarily ethical and which does not serve everyone's needs, we risk taking the wrong path with even more isolation and dehumanization. Digital tools must be at the service of people and help improve their quality of life.
Thank you to Sophie Lérault for answering our questions on these inspiring topics on which we will come back regularly with our speakers.