Revolutionizing the Real Estate Industry with Digital Twins

Matthew Robare
November 16, 2023

Here's how real estate professionals are revolutionizing their field by using digital twin technology.

When it comes to digital twin technology, there are mays the tech can be adopted — facilities management, commercial real estate, and development.

Even sales agents are employing digital twins to an extent.

The  industry encompasses a vast and diverse array of fields, from development and management to sales, renovations and investments. All these fields have different goals and requirements for the data they need to operate profitably.

One of the challenges for software companies will be providing tools that can be tailored to each use case. 

How Digital Twins are Impacting Real Estate

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin refers to a digital replica or representation of a physical property, whether it's a building, a development, or an entire real estate portfolio.

This digital twin is created by using various technologies, including 3D modeling, data analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, to capture and simulate the characteristics, functions, and performance of the physical property in a virtual environment. The goal is to enable better management, optimization, and decision-making in the industry.

Key features and applications may include:

Facilities Management

Facilities management companies are currently the biggest markets for digital twins in the real estate industry. They use them for optimizing the existing building and lowering overall costs of running a particular building or set of buildings while the developer has other priorities, like lowering construction costs or soft costs.

According to the firm JLL, facilities managers are using digital twins to analyze building performance by producing “predictive insights to create a more comfortable, productive and environmentally responsible workplace”.

The ability of a digital twin to provide complex simulations of different aspects of a building is vitally important here, according to Deloitte, because the twin can have “a complete view of the entire structure across its lifecycle and integrate any disparate systems to create a centralized repository for all data” with the ultimate goal of creating “more human” buildings with environments that promote health, well-being and foster community.

This means that facilities managers can use digital twins of their buildings to create floor plans that maximize time workers spend in sunlight, create microclimates across a floor or suite to keep plants alive, promote interactions, or just make sure people are comfortable.

The smart sensors and other connected devices that help gather the data used for digital twins can also help maintain spaces smoothly — equipment can be monitored by the building’s sensors and maintenance done before something breaks, instead of tenants arriving on Monday morning and having to call in problems. Better data can also help facilities managers keep common chemicals people can be allergic to out of the air, or out of the building.

Construction and Design

In the future, a developer will be able to use a digital twin to streamline construction and design.

They'll also be able to lower soft costs, such as in meetings with development review boards or committees, by showing fuller information about the completed building in its context than an architect’s renderings can accomplish.

A digital twin’s abilities to provide complex simulations can also combine the various studies a developer might be required to conduct — shadow studies, wind studies, traffic and parking studies and so on.

Digital twins could also be used to simulate the delivery and work schedules of different occupants, or their different requirements for space. They may even be able to simulate likely occupancy patterns, making them useful on the lending side of things.

Sales and Leasing

Another future use of digital twins could be in sales/leasing.

Companies like Zillow already sometimes provide 3D models of homes for sale, made with panoramic pictures and some realtors already “virtually stage” empty homes with furniture photoshopped into pictures to show how space could be used.

Digital twin real estate technology can take this further, providing a fully 3D model for tenants or buyers to explore, along with a way of scanning one’s own furniture into the space.

The functionality could even extend to letting the prospective buyer rearrange walls and rooms, as well as showing them the data generated by the smart sensors.

Benefits of digital twins for real estate

There's a wide range of benefits for this industry, such as a digital twin in property maintenance, development, and overall efficiency.

Some of the key benefits include:

Enhanced Decision-Making

A digital twin in property maintenance provides real-time data and simulations, while enabling better-informed decisions from property management and investments.

Improved Asset Performance and Predictive Maintenance

By monitoring and analyzing data from digital twins, property owners and managers can optimize building performance, reducing energy consumption and operational costs.

Digital twins can predict when equipment or systems within a property might fail, allowing for preventive maintenance and reducing unexpected downtime.

Space Optimization

Property managers can analyze space utilization and optimize layouts, leading to more efficient use of space and potentially increased rental revenue.

Tenant Experience

Property owners can use digital twins to offer interactive 3D tours and improve tenant services, enhancing the tenant experience and satisfaction.

As such, digital twins can help identify and mitigate potential risks related to property compliance, safety, or operational issues.

Data-Driven Insights and Operational Efficiency

Digital twins provide a wealth of data that can be analyzed for insights and trends, helping property owners make strategic decisions and plan for the future.

Property management tasks, such as scheduling maintenance or security measures, can be automated and optimized using data from digital twins.

Digital twins can serve as a foundational technology for smart buildings, integrating with IoT devices and automation systems for a seamless and connected environment.

Cost Savings and Long-Term Value

Through more efficient operations, predictive maintenance, and space optimization, property owners and managers can reduce operational costs and potentially increase revenue.

By improving asset performance and prolonging the life of building systems, digital twins can help maintain and increase the long-term value of a property.

Overall, digital twin real estate technology provides a holistic view of a property, enabling stakeholders to make data-driven decisions, enhance efficiency, and improve the overall experience for tenants and building occupants.

These benefits are becoming increasingly important as the industry embraces smart building technologies.

Digital Twins Aiding Sustainability

Sustainability and decarbonization are other important uses of digital twins in the industry at large.

Globally, building operations are responsible for 28 percent of carbon emissions, according to Architecture 2030, and represent an area where business interests, climate change activism, and regulatory law are converging.

Digital twins can help identity heating and cooling inefficiencies, and generate detailed energy usage statistics and consumption data that can be used to improve the building’s performance. Or they can help inform on where to perform targeted passive heating or cooling retrofitting.  

Source: Digital Twins in Built Environments: An Investigation of the Characteristics, Applications, and Challenges

How To Create Digital Twins for Real Estate

Define Objectives and Use Cases

Start by defining your objectives for creating a digital twin. What specific aspects of the property do you want to replicate digitally, and what do you aim to achieve with the digital twin?

Common use cases include property management and space optimization, or using a digital twin in property maintenance and tenant experience improvement.

Data Collection and Integration

Collect data from various sources, including IoT sensors, building management systems, 3D modeling, and property management software.

Data can include information on building layouts, equipment, occupancy, energy usage, and more.

Integrate the collected data into a centralized digital twin platform. Ensure that the data is structured and compatible with the digital twin platform you plan to use.

Select Digital Twin Technology

Choose a platform or software that aligns with your objectives and use cases. There are commercial platforms available, or you can develop a custom solution if necessary.

Model Creation

Create a 3D model of the property, replicating its physical characteristics, layouts, and equipment. This model should be the basis for your digital twin.

Data Mapping

Map the real-time data you've collected onto the 3D model. This data can include information about occupancy, temperature, energy consumption, equipment status, and more. The data should update in real-time to reflect the current state of the property.

Visualization and User Interface

Develop a user-friendly interface for interacting with the digital twin. This may include 3D visualization, dashboards, and tools for exploring the property virtually.

Simulation and Analysis

Implement simulation and analysis capabilities within the digital twin. This allows users to run scenarios, perform analytics, and gain insights into various aspects of the property, such as energy efficiency, space utilization, or maintenance needs.

IoT Sensor Deployment

Install IoT sensors and devices throughout the property, including those that monitor environmental conditions, security, occupancy, and equipment performance.

Connectivity and Integration

Ensure that the digital twin is connected to the IoT devices and can receive real-time data. Implement connectivity and integration protocols for data synchronization.

Testing and Validation

Thoroughly test the digital twin to ensure that it accurately reflects the physical property. This includes validating data accuracy, 3D modeling, and the user interface.

Data Security and Privacy

Implement robust security measures to protect data and user privacy. This is particularly important as you're dealing with sensitive information related to buyers and sellers.

User Training and Deployment

Train personnel and users who will interact with the digital twin on how to use the platform effectively.

Deploy the digital twin within your organization, making it accessible to relevant stakeholders, such as property managers, maintenance teams, and tenants.
Ongoing Maintenance and Updates:

Regularly maintain and update the digital twin as the property evolves or as technology advances. This may include software updates, adding new sensors, and adapting to changing needs.

Creating a digital twin for real estate is a complex process that requires collaboration between various stakeholders, including property owners, technology experts, and data scientists. It's essential to have a clear plan and objectives from the outset to ensure that the digital twin effectively serves its intended purposes.

Future of Digital Twins in Real Estate

The industry's own breadth and complexity should make it attractive to digital twin developers.

All buildings — from humble houses to the tallest skyscrapers — produce so much data that can be used to model, predict, and optimize that the possibilities are nearly endless. And even if the firm generating the data has no use for it, it may still be of use elsewhere, such as by urban planners or construction companies.

This makes the data not only a resource but a commodity and another incentive for firms to invest in digital twins.

Related Blogs

Sign up for a demo & data trial

Sign up to access a trial account and demo with our team.