4 digital drivers shaping the future of the built industry

Digitalization and digital transformation are everywhere. Technologies, especially digital technologies are progressing at an exponential speed, and now it is the time to act or at least explore some technologies shaping your industry.

Below are four digital technologies that complement each other wonderfully. BIM, Digital Twins, Mixed Reality, and 3D printing.


BIM stands for Building Information Modelling. BIM is a collaborative method of working that is based on the generation and exchange of data and information between the various project parties during the full cycle of a building, from conception to completion. According to GenieBelt, BIM has various maturity levels, from level 0 (CAD) to level 3 (6D BIM). Check out the visualization below. As GenieBelt illustrates, most companies operate on Level 1 BIM, a technological development from 2000, this means a 20-year technological dept for most companies in the built industry. But it is never too late to get started. Green-BIM is the application of the BIM method for the development of green planning solutions and thus sustainable buildings. BIM supports the project participants with information for decision-making already in an early planning phase and thus has a great influence on the efficiency and performance of a building during operation. During the BIM process, a lot of data is produced and managed. It is mandatory that everyone in the process understands the data which is gathered, understands the models, and knows what is possible with it.

Update 2020-01-08

After a recent discussion, I want to add here that these levels and dimensions are producing widespread confusion. In 2017, the UK government was still talking about the four levels. According to a personal message I got from Richard Saxon, an English architect and former vice president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, ISO19650 ends the idea of levels as such, recognizing that users can take what they need in many ways. Dimensions of BIM are helpful in summarising how layers of applications can be built. Many links and literature can be found of multiple dimensions, up to 9D BIM. A good read is also this one from Dr. Wei Zhou where he writes about the naming of dimensions. Richard Saxon, proposed in a 2018 article a sixth and seventh dimension of BIM. But as he wrote to me, everything beyond 5D has no consensus yet. Today, the world has not agreed on everything in the visualization yet, but the built industry is trying to make sense of the potential by using these descriptions. The nature of digital is usually much quicker than the standards and policy that follows. Take this visualization as an inspiration where the technological progress will go to explore your possibilities.

Digital Twin

A Digital Twin is a doppelganger of something and lives in digital reality. A digital twin is a digital replica of a physical asset, process, product, a whole building, or a complex system. The concept has been around for some time, but according to Deloitte, Industry 4.0 has made the digital twin a reality today. A digital twin contains all the data, information, and behaves in the exact way the physical object would. Digital twins not only enable products to be conceived, simulated, and manufactured faster than in the past, but also to be designed with a view to an improved economy, performance, robustness, or environmental compatibility. A digital twin accompanies the physical object from design through production to operation to servicing and even recycling. With all the data and information gathered, a digital twin can simulate a possible future state, this can be useful to optimize energy efficiency, use of a building’s infrastructure, predictive maintenance, or also for disaster events like earthquakes and to simulate people flow. This simulation is then also useful in the case of an emergency to act correctly. A digital twin can be built on top of a 3D model, created through BIM, but it is not mandatory to do so. A digital twin is not a single technology, it is a collection of multiple technologies put together. IoT like sensors, cameras, microphones, humidity sensors, light sensors, or smart meter produces the needed data which is being analyzed with artificial intelligence, data analysis, and science methods to do the mentioned predictions and simulations. Having all this, operating a building autonomously is getting much easier. Start small with a digital twin and grow it in whole cities or even whole countries. Possibilities are endless.

Mixed Reality (MR)

"When you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see." - Satya Nadella.

According to Microsoft, MR is a game-changer in almost every industry.

With MR, the lines between reality and fiction are disappearing. MR is a technology that merges real and virtual worlds to create a new reality where physical and digital components can interact simultaneously.

Mixed Reality is transforming the way how construction companies and workers can consume and interact with digital information. The days of looking at outdated plans and maps are over. Carry simply a smartphone, tablet, or a Mixed Reality headset with you and access all data needed. Even show at the right location how a building will look like. Such technology can also be used to show to clients the construction before it is built and reduce the costs for late changes. Agile development.

3D Printing

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a technology that creates 3D objects. 3D printing became prominent with small objects in the maker community and involved layering materials like plastic. But the times are over where we could print just small objects with a limited selection of materials. Today, this technology can print almost everything with a vast amount of different materials, from homes to cars and space ships to 3D printed food and organs. 3D printers are incredibly flexible and are a promising technology for the future of manufacturing and can become a game-changer for any industry. Another key success feature of 3D printing is a different kind of structures that a printer can produce which normally are not possible or hard to achieve. Below is a picture of Dubai Municipality which became the world’s largest 3D printed building in 2019. Because the planned construction is already designed in 3D and you viewed in a Mixed Reality environment, this technology is a lovely complement to it.

With the data gathered from the Digital Twin, you are getting even the possibility to design a new construction with the help of AI which can then be 3D printed. But this in another article. Important to say here is, be sure of what kind of information and data you want to capture because otherwise, you could lose sight of the data jungle produced. Start small, learn and grow.