ICL: The New Environmental Digital Twin for Healthy Sustainable Communities

Last week, IES announced the launch of its Intelligent Communities Lifecycle (ICL)—new cutting-edge digital twin technology that connects distributed energy networks, renewables, master plans, building design, operation and retrofit.

The ICL (Intelligent Communities Lifecycle) is a platform of interconnected decision support tools that facilitate the planning, design and operation of energy efficient and sustainable communities of any size and purpose, whether that be a company, campus, city or country. It is the most holistic tool for assessing any configuration of buildings throughout their lifecycle.

Utilising the latest digital technology to link IoT (Internet of Things) data, sensor readings, OpenData or any other data source into one interconnected platform, the ICL enables investigation of built environment performance at any level.

Don McLean, IES Founder and CEO, says: “The IES team have been working extremely hard over the past few years to develop this sophisticated suite of tools that will revolutionise the way we plan and design communities and use energy, whether that be a university campus, city or entire continent.” 

“Climate Change is a very real threat, and much more imminent than most people realise. Over the last 25 years, we’ve built a solid reputation as a leading innovator in sustainable analytics for individual buildings and we’ve made a huge impact, eliminating the need for around 30 power stations to be built.” 

“With the ICL, we can now apply sustainable analysis to communities of any size or purpose, enabling people to look at energy use holistically at a much larger scale. This technology brings the opportunity to make a massive difference to the fight against climate change, and secure a much better future for our children and future generations.”

We’re holding a live webinar on 30th April 2019 to introduce the ICL technology and show how it’s been used on the NTU EcoCampus (case study below). Sign up here.

It’s Time to Make a Difference

Building simulation software has been around for decades, and architects, engineers, and construction professionals have long used building modelling software to help them design, construct and operate buildings.

However, with the addition of real-time sensors, big data and cloud computing, it’s become possible to create digital twins of entire communities and simulate how things will look and interact in a huge range of different scenarios. A couple of examples are: "What opportunity is there to use waste heat?"; and “How can we meet energy demand from different sources?”

Undoubtedly, digital twin technology such as the ICL and other technological advances have the potential to revolutionise how we manage, interact and operate the buildings in our local communities, campuses and cities. However, this technology isn’t yet being utilised to its full potential.

Our buildings have changed significantly over recent years, but the way we design, handover and operate them is not changing fast enough. The building industry needs to catch up with other industries in their use of digital technology and data.

Project examples such as NTU EcoCampus, Singapore described below prove that digital twin technology is starting to make a significant impact in reducing the built environment’s carbon footprint, and these numbers are continually rising as more and more professionals understand the social, environmental and economic benefits of using this technology and integrated performance analysis tools.

As an industry, we should be proud of what we've achieved so far. However, with recent climate reports issuing stark warnings on the urgency to act on climate change, the call to action is clear. Let’s evolve in our use of digital technologies and make a significant impact.

The ICL Technology in Action

Throughout development of the ICL, IES has been involved in many ground-breaking pilot projects and rigorous testing to bring the technology to the market. One of the most innovative pilot projects is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) EcoCampus in Singapore.

IES delivered a 3D masterplanning and visualisation model, virtual testing and building performance optimisation for Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s flagship EcoCampus. Delivered in two phases, the project used IES’ ICL (Intelligent Communities Lifecycle) digital twin technology to provide high-level visualisation and analysis of testbed energy reduction technologies on site, before delving into detailed simulation and calibrated modelling of 21 campus buildings.

NTU firstly wanted to understand, at campus level, which testbed solutions were performing the best, and identify the optimum scale and location for their deployment.

The EcoCampus initiative covers the entire NTU 200-hectare campus and adjoining 50-hectare JTC Corporation CleanTech Business Park. There are over 200 buildings on site with a 1.1 million m² floor area.

Phase 1 of the project concentrated on creating a masterplanning model of the EcoCampus, complete with energy signatures for each building on the campus.

The model was accurate to 91% for total energy consumption and 97% for chiller energy consumption. A corresponding online cloud-based Campus Information Model for communication and engagement with campus staff and students was also created and connected to the masterplanning model for automatic updates.

The masterplanning model was used as a baseline to simulate and analyse testbed technologies ranging from improved thermal performance of the building envelope, to lighting sensors, chiller optimisation and smart plugs that turn equipment off out of hours. These measures combined reduced energy consumption across the campus by 10%, saving $3.9M and 8.2kt of carbon.

In Phase 2, the implementation stage, the best solutions from the Phase 1 ‘testbed’ were chosen and applied.

Using real operational data from utilities and NTU’s Building Management Systems (BMS), IES identified opportunities to achieve optimal performance in existing buildings across the campus, using its innovative Ci2 (Collect, Investigate, Compare, Invest) process.

During the ‘Collect’ and ‘Investigate’ stage, building information was gathered and operational data imported into the ICL’s operational data management and analysis tool, iSCAN, to investigate issues/faults across a selection of 21 buildings on the NTU campus.

Virtual models were created in the IES Virtual Environment (VE) for each of the buildings and calibrated using the operational data. These models established an accurate baseline for the existing buildings in operation, enabling IES to ‘Compare’ and determine potential savings for a range of technologies in the ‘Invest’ stage.

The results demonstrated that the technologies simulated could achieve 31% average energy savings and a total cost saving of approximately $4.7million.

So What Are the ICL Tools?

The ICL aims to provide decision makers with the information required to form intelligent solutions by identifying the most effective and resource efficient ways in which they can dramatically reduce the use of energy and fossil fuels within a community, and across its entire Lifecycle.

Climate Ready Masterplanning for Campuses, Cities and Communities

Consider a masterplan … There are 50 -70 buildings, a mix of existing and new build, but you can’t get quick feedback on sustainability criteria. You need better collaboration within your team, you are unable to quickly create energy models of all the buildings and there is an overwhelming amount of data all held in different tools.

This is where Intelligent Community Design (iCD) comes in ... Using the latest digital twin technology, iCD makes it possible to undertake sustainable masterplanning right from the earliest project stages, even when data is sparse or non-existent. It can provide analysis which is completely scalable from a simple campus, to a wider community or city.

Whether it’s a new or existing development, the iCD model can analyse and monitor how the community may evolve over time. Users can track the impact of changes on key environmental metrics such as solar/PV potential, walkability from transport hubs, impact on resource consumption and building EUIs.

Cut through the clutter and confusion of building data

For those involved in the energy management of a building or group of buildings, understanding the data collected can be a minefield. There are many different sources, formats, time series, as well as different platforms and logins. This often leads to mismanagement of data, failure to detect issues and lack of clarity across data.

iSCAN’s (intelligent Control and Analysis)power is its ability to centralise a range of time-series data from different BMS systems, utility meters, sensors and portable data loggers in one platform. Users can organise and analyse this data to gain hidden insights to improve their building or portfolio operation. They can also create bespoke cross-platform alerts, and connect to a 3D virtual twin for real-time optimisation and ‘what if’ testing of improvement options.

Network Design and Analysis for Resource Efficient Campuses, Communities & Developments

The Intelligent Virtual Network (iVN) provides the ability to model, compare and optimise the integrated design and management across electricity, heating, cooling and waste heat networks. Users can identify potential for energy trading, reduce energy bills locally and reduce carbon emissions across their community.

Leading Building Analytics Platform

The Virtual Environment (VE) is widely acknowledged as the leading building analytics platform for top architects, engineers and contractors. The energy and carbon reduction capability of the technology has been proven on hundreds of thousands of projects worldwide. Its detailed simulation power connects to any ICL tool to provide analysis insights to your community.

Bring your Project to Life through Data Visualisation

Many people have connections to the built environment, from designers, developers, clients, and the wider construction team to citizens, office workers, city planners, and community leaders.

Data visualisation is often underestimated. It is not just interesting images for reports and presentations. It provides insights through analysis and is critical to helping people understand complex information.

The ICL Collaboration Cloud connects all ICL tools to bring projects to life through data visualisation across a Community (iCIM) or a Portfolio (iPIM).

The Intelligent Community Information Model (iCIM) is a community resource monitoring and management platform that improves sustainability performance. Providing a central repository for your project data and models, users can host any urban data, integrate live data and visualise energy and resource use to monitor trends and engage citizens.

The Intelligent Portfolio Information Model (iPIM) is a building portfolio and asset management tool for the visualisation of key performance indicators and data. Identify data patterns, make connections and map resource and cost impacts while monitoring progress towards sustainability goals.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in AECbytes sponsored articles are those of the sponsor and do not represent or reflect the views of AECbytes.