Digital Twins Could Help Reduce CRE Emissions in a Big Way–But First, the Technology Needs to Become More Accessible

Energy agencies agree that residential and commercial real estate account for about 40% of global energy consumption and emissions. Advocates of Digital Twin technology say that by increasing the efficiency of the built environment through real-time, comprehensive monitoring, that number could come down.

New flagship office towers and corporate HQs are more likely to take advantage of the efficiencies that could be achieved using a digital twin. But the greater challenge is posed by the sheer volume of aging building stock, which requires significant and costly repositioning to be able to achieve the same efficiencies.

“If you’re doing it with an older building, this could be a far more costly undertaking,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology Real Estate Innovation Lab Lead Researcher James Scott told Bisnow.

“That’s why the rollout of this isn’t going to happen as quickly as people would hope for.”

So far, the adoption of digital twin technology in commercial buildings has been slow, owing to its relatively new development and high price point. Annual subscriptions can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and that’s not including the expense of installing sensors and upgrading connectivity to feed data to the digital twin software.

Because of their complexity, digital twins are most commonly used at the building level. However, if adopted on a district or city-level scale, the efficiencies and environmental outcomes could be much greater. For some real estate investors, it will come down to keeping an asset relevant and competitive in the marketplace. And there are clear financial and environmental benefits to using digital twins.

“Whatever your reasoning is, be it for an environmental purpose, or be it for an economic purpose, or a cost-saving initiative — this technology makes sense. You’re going to have to get it, and you’re going to need to get it,” Scott said. “But it’s the time frame of when this technology is going to be available to you,  and when it is at a price that makes sense for your organization to implement it.”