The £4bn restoration of the Palace of Westminster will require off-site construction and advanced technology. © iStock/Getty Images
The £4bn restoration of the Palace of Westminster will require off-site construction and advanced technology. © iStock/Getty Images

Digital twins will be used in Westminster restoration

The restoration and renewal of the Houses of Parliament will involve the use of “digital twins” to create efficiencies and cost savings.

John Fernau, director of consultancy Fernau Solutions, said digital twins, which involve real-time computer simulations of products or processes, would be used in the £4bn restoration of the Palace of Westminster.

Speaking at The World of Procurement in London, Fernau said he was working on the project and a digital twin for the Palace of Westminister would simulate “air temperatures, fire sensors, and air flow”.

“This isn’t [like] building a car park, it’s a very old and complex building,” he said.

“Although we are not at the stage where we have goals and aspirations that we are ready to develop, what we do have are the strategic themes which are setting some direction.” 

These strategic themes include health, safety and security; functionality and design; accessibility and inclusion; a sense of history; sustainability, and time and value for money.

When it comes to time and value for money, Fernau said it was necessary to ask questions on behalf of the public. “Where’s the benefit to the constituency in this, and how can this serve them?” he said.

The project will require off-site construction of complex items due to the lack of space in central london and there will be a need for expertise in certain areas of construction, said Fernau.

This raises the issue of how construction and supply chain logistics will work, and whether using emerging technology would help create efficiencies and move the operation along.  

“Logistics are a prime example as the industry has changed massively,” said Fernau, adding the use of digital twins technology in construction operations and supply chain could be “groundbreaking”.

“I’ve quickly learnt that this is the true application of the internet of things. This is all the components in a complex scene talking to each other, and talking back to its central point to optimise the procurement of that thing,” he explained.

Fernau referred to a Rolls-Royce engine that used a digital twin to create efficiencies. “The Rolls-Royce smart engines are reporting on all the components’ status, in terms of power output, and how they are functioning,” he said.

This real-time data is sent back to enable the manufacturer and supply firms to make alterations for efficiency of fuel and cost savings, Fernau said.

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