The extremely fast-changing construction sector, influenced by the Internet of Things, building information modelling and digital twins, and other innovations, forces business enterprises and the academic community to constantly improve. Effective application of these new technologies can increase the efficiency of the construction sector, reduce energy consumption in buildings, and ultimately create smart building systems that learn from past data.
Researchers from Kaunas University of Technology Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture (KTU FCEA) are implementing the 1.5 million-worth international SmartWins project aimed at creating a more sustainable environment by applying digital twin technologies. In addition to the KTU representatives coordinating the project, scientists and specialists from Italy, Greece, Germany, and France participate in it.
“Representatives of the construction sector already successfully apply the BIM (building information management) methodology in their activities, it is also fully integrated into KTU study programmes. However, many still understand the concept of digital twins differently. I would call it the next stage in the evolution of the digital management of buildings and cities. These digital copies of physical objects are enriched with real-time data, which, in turn, is used for analysis, management, and decision-making,” says Andrius Jurelionis, the Dean of KTU Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture.
At the beginning of March, SmartWins project participants gathered or connected remotely to the training held at the Polytechnic University of Milan, which aimed to strengthen the abilities of KTU young researchers and PhD students to carry out scientific research on next-generation digital twins and buildings’ energy performance assessment technologies to facilitate the transition to an advanced, sustainable and low-carbon neutral environment.
During the training, participants were able to familiarise themselves with innovations in heat pump technologies, climate chambers for building microclimate and acoustics tests, and clean room management technologies.
Jurelionis says that the training session in March is just the beginning of a several-year project.
“For such systems to work, smart sensors, advanced data storage, and processing technologies are required. These technologies allow us to better understand how systems interact with each other to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, reduce the impact on the environment, and ultimately create new, more sustainable solutions based on the collected data. I am pleased that our faculty colleagues were able to raise funding for this project. The training in Milan allowed our young researchers to gain new knowledge in this field. We will organise more such meetings, training, and events for business and other interested parties during this project,” says Jurelionis.
By the end of the project in 2025, two events will be held for the representatives of municipalities, businesses, and non-governmental organisations. These events will aim to introduce digital twin technology to a wider audience. In the course of the project, partnership establishment events will be organised, and applications for other scientific projects will be prepared.
“Collaboration has the potential to significantly enhance the sharing of knowledge and best practices, which can lead to improved academic excellence. At present, much attention is given to the subjects of sustainability, energy conservation, and the impact of buildings on both the environment and individuals. Given the intricate nature of these systems, their successful management demands the acquisition of new tools and expertise,” says Paris Fokaides the Project coordinator, Chief Researcher at Sustainable Energy in the Built Environment research group at KTU.
According to him, SmartWins is a unique opportunity for students and researchers to work together and acquire these skills, and the competencies acquired in the project will be used in the Civil Engineering and Architecture study programmes of KTU.
“Just a few months ago, the university held a hackathon on the topic of digital twins. You can continue to expect such events, interesting student projects, and research results from our university,” says Andrius Jurelionis.
The SmartWins consortium unites partners from complementary sectors: one of the most famous European universities from Italy, Politecnico di Milano, one of the largest European research centres located in Greece, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH), the German company Contecht (start-up, founded at the Technical University of Berlin) and the French company Innotrope, which specialises in the management and dissemination of research projects.
The SmartWins project is financed by the European Commission, allocating 1.5 million. euros. The project is part of the European Partnerships (Twinning) strategy, which aims to strengthen the networking of research institutions. Funding for this project is provided by the European Union’s research and innovation program “Horizon Europe” under grant agreement no. 101057251.