June 2021

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Why it’s time for commercial real estate owners to start the real digital transformation – digital twins of their buildings
Louise Morgan
Executive Vice-President and Partner

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Property managers are postponing the adoption of digital twins because most of them do not see the use cases or the return on investment. Nonetheless, they strive to have smart and connected buildings. To connect spaces, data and people, it is important to start with the space digital twin and add equipment, sensors and data to it to have simpler, practical digital twins.

These are the issues that most property managers are dealing with:

        They are interested in digital transformation, but they do not know where to start or are they afraid of the costs.

        They think they need perfect digital twins of their equipment like pipes and ducts and building systems.

        They received several Revit models at the end of a project and have no idea what to do with them.

        They are not sure if the equipment managed in their CMMS is up to date.

Having digital twins of buildings is easier than people think

For more than 25 years, Archidata has supported its clients through technological changes and the transition from paper plans to CAD drawings and has supported them in the past 10 years in their transition to space and equipment digital twins, and more recently, digital twins for sensors and data from different building systems.

Digital Twin Strategy

For us, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a space, equipment/sensors and building systems. We also add data because by giving color the value of a data type, we are able to publish values on floor plans or in the space digital twin to make sense of IoT.

We work with property owners that have diverse portfolios and each property has diverse information, documents and building systems. Our digital twins strategy has three inputs:



1)            As-built drawings in AutoCAD, PDF or even scanned paper drawings;

We use CAD drawings to produce the space digital twin, it’s an IFC models.

2)            Data from building systems that are digital twins themselves. For example preventive maintenance gives us the equipment and work orders. SCADA will give us the data from operations.

3)            Revit files from new projects which are numerous at the end of a project.

Our strategy is to use all three at the same time to produce the digital twins. This allows property owners to have simpler and practical digital twins without having to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to reproduce HVAC in 3D or scan the building in 3D.

We based our digital twin on our BIM for Operations strategy:


How to create the digital twins

In this section, we will show you how Archidata produces the three types of digital twins – space, equipment/sensor and data from SCADA.

1.      Space Digital twin

The space digital twin is comprised of many space types to help manage spaces and occupancy.



1.1.1 Creation of space digital twin using CAD drawings

An important issue for clients is that the vast majority of their portfolio is already built. Archidata has been accelerating its clients’ digital transformation by creating 3D models from 2D drawings already have in hand, at a low cost. To convert in 3D, Archidata created an AutoCAD 3D/IFC translator that produces IFC files by floor, building or complex.


AutoCAD Conversion to IFC

1.2 Creation of space digital twin using Revit files of new projects

The digital transition is easier with new construction or major renovations thanks to the creation of a Revit model. Property owners receive a multitude of Revit files at the end of projects and are usually unsure of what to do with them. Archidata’s strategy to keep create a “master model or digital twin” of the building by combining information from different Revit files such as room type or usage. The master model is produced in IFC, a format that any manager can use with a 3D viewer.  It is important to leverage Revit files and extract as much profit as possible from them.


Floor in Revit file converted to IFC for building managers who do not have Revit

2.      Digital Twins of Equipment

2.1   Creating equipment digital twins using AutoCAD drawings or Revit files

AutoCAD emblems are represented by pointers in the space digital twin and each equipment category is represented by a color to be easily recognizable. Revit/BIM models are a spatialized database so we extract the equipment included that the client wants to manage on a daily basis.


HVAC represented by red pointers

2.2   Creating equipment digital twins by importing equipment from CMMS database

By adding a GIS layer on floor plan, Archidata imports the equipment from the CMMS database and geo-locates it in the space (room, common area, and workstation).


Sensors represented by red pointer


3.      Data/Building system digital twins

The third type of digital twins is data coming from equipment or sensors. For us, there are as many digital twins as there are systems in a building. In a perfect world, we would have a standardized digital twin for an equipment however each system has its own way to perceive an equipment and represent it based on the type of data they manage.

The dream was to link equipment between systems but it didn’t happen. For example, there are as many ways to see a compressed air unit and its component as there are building software. And unfortunately, there is rarely a unified coding system that allows to automatically link the databases. 

We came up with an intermediate step where we link the equipment coming from different systems to a space unit like a room or a Boxel https://www.archidata.com/en/boxel.html . Then our objective is, once the equipment is spatialized, it is to identify and link it to the common equipment.



Source: Archidata’s Smart Building IoT viewer


Digital Twins Update and Seamless Digital Data Exchange

One of the most important issues with digital twins is updating them. Space digital twins are updated after each project in a building with the AutoCAD or Revit files. It is critical to keep the spaces current because equipment and data is spatialized.

As for the data/building system digital twins, the API between the space digital twin and the building system ensures the continuous flow of data. To update all three digital twin types, we developed the concept of a BIM for Operations Hub that serves as a registry for the exchange by APIs with the different systems. We did not model all the information on spaces and objects in the BIM for Operations Hub, instead, we created a registry that allows to redirect API calls to the software that contains the up-to-date information.

The BIM-Operations Hub ensures digital continuity between building services: reliable and up-to-date data transmitted with assurance in all the specialized software already in place.



This section highlights the digital twins use cases that our clients have adopted.

Building operations

        Visualization of data Big Data from different building systems and sensors to see trends and predict patterns on floor plans and 3D models for better decision-making.

        Easy location, rating and tracking of problems (could be linked to a preventive maintenance system or security/alarms) with spatialized equipment and sensors.


Analysis of pattern over time (for example, temperature change throughout the day)


Alarm of faulty equipment going off in Space Digital Twin


 Client/Tenant Satisfaction

        Location-based tracking of client satisfaction regarding any room, equipment, or object in the building by simply clicking on the spot where they are on the space digital (floor plan or 3D view) and answer a quick survey.



Emergency Preparedness

First responders will know how to enter a building and find the room where the situation is (fire, shooting, person in distress). First responders can also preview on their way to the building floor plans, security systems and equipment from any device in seconds, enabling a better preparation for, and a faster reaction to, any situation.






       Reduces time required to evaluate internal requests for intervention by saving time in finding location and equipment thus improving employee productivity.


        Enhanced client/tenant level of service by geolocating requests and work orders.

        User-friendly tool minimizes resistance to change, and costs associated with digital transformation by integrating digital twins into existing processes, without modifying existing hardware, software and equipment.

        Real estate assets, old or new, will have the benefits of more digital tools.


Property managers have everything in hand to start the real digital transformation which is connecting space, data and people.


Louise Morgan

Executive Vice-President and Partner



About Archidata - Drawings, Data and Digital Twins

Archidata provides large property owners with an accurate inventory of their spaces (square footage, volumes, occupancy) and equipment (electrical, security, HVAC, etc.)  in 2D and 3D, updated after each project.


By levering drawings and Revit files, owners always have accurate data for the financial system, leasing, procurement, asset management, preventive maintenance, risk management, emergency preparedness, carbon footprint measurement and building automation.


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