What Is the Digital Twin Technology for CRE Assets? (Article from NREI Online)

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Note: This article by Patricia Kirk originally appeared in NREIonline.com on March 21, 2019.

New digital technologies are expediting new development projects and improving asset management capabilities.

A new Digital Twin technology offers commercial real estate developers and owners a powerful data tool that can expedite project construction, provide asset management efficiencies that save time and money and make buildings more sustainable.

A Digital Twin is a virtual replica of a physical real estate asset. The scalable platform leverages the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create 2D or 3D digital, geometrically accurate visualization of assets that provide continuously updated information on a project’s status or live building operational data and facilitates machine learning (ML) capabilities.

Early adopter Suffolk Construction, a Boston-based commercial real estate builder, is using this technology to plan and manage projects better, Rob Crudon, Suffolk vice president of operations, said at a ULI San Diego/Tijuana event last week. A project’s Digital Twin provides an understanding of how a project will look, feel, work and impact the environment, including the city’s skyline, he said, noting it allows estimators to identify project components and provide accurate cost estimates and helps project managers reduce or eliminate budget overruns.

To leverage the value of this technology, Suffolk has established a smart lab in offices in San Francisco, New York, Miami, Tampa, Fla. Dallas and Los Angeles, where the firm’s construction managers get together with designers, contractors and other associates to collaborate and plan projects while using the Digital Twin platform, Cruden said.

The smart labs are also used for business development, providing data to update current clients and pitch prospects. They include a room called the Cave, which receives live camera feeds from various job sites, enabling project associates and clients to use virtual reality to step inside three-dimensional models of projects.

A number of software developers have entered the Digital Twin real estate technology marketplace. NREI spoke with representatives from two firms offering platforms that span the entire spectrum of building development and operations.

Sydney-based Willow collects and harnesses project and building operations data to facilitate smart design and construction and optimize building performance, according to Casey Mahon, digital coordinator for the firm who spoke at the ULI event.

Formerly a digital design and construction company, three years ago Willow, in partnership with Investa, an Australian commercial real estate owner/operator, developed Willow Twin. This digital solution draws on static, historic and live operating data to create actionable insights that can transform the operation of buildings and infrastructure and how occupants and users experience these assets, according to Ian Siegel, digital lead at Willow.

The WillowTwin platform brings together three main streams of building information into searchable database that can scale from a single asset to an entire real estate portfolio, including:

  • Spatial information from the 3D models or 2D drawings;
  • Static information about all equipment (manufacturer, model and serial numbers, warranty information, cost of replacement) and PDFs of the owner’s manual and maintenance instructions;
  • Live data from systems, such as the building management system (BMS), lighting control, physical access control, CCTV, and other IoT sensors.


Harnessing real-time building data and usage patterns, the platform can help optimize building performance and tenant experience, and drive savings through predictive maintenance. Owners can also use the platform to glean insights about how occupants use the building and automatically predict their needs, such as environmental comfort.

Through the use of WillowTwin, a project’s design and construction teams assemble the building’s Digital Twin as it is being constructed. Bringing together the information silos that traditionally separate a project’s design and construction teams, the platform reports on the completion and quality of information contractors need to present to an owner at closeout. Collecting and validating this information over the course of the construction process reduces risk at handover and for all stakeholders, including owners, investors and contractors.

Smartphone apps allow property and asset managers to review reports on tenant demographics and engagement, including space utilization, service and amenity preferences, and tenant feedback collected by the apps. Tenants can use the apps to pre-register building guests with security, which sends their guests a QR code that is scanned when they enter the building, then provides a map that guides them to their destinations. It can also digitally unlock doors, reserve conference rooms and amenity spaces, and push notifications of transportation alerts, specials offered by nearby retailers and instructions in emergency situations.

The Smart World Pro platform offered by Chicago-based Cityzenith allows clients to build custom Digital Twins of all types of real estate assets, from entire property portfolios to entire cities, Founder and CEO Michael Jansen told NREI. The platform provides a comprehensive visualization of all information in and around those assets, from capturing live pedestrian footfall around a campus from IoT sensors to alerts from building systems.

“The platform is a ‘Digital LEGO Land’ of configurable pieces that can be moved around to create a custom Digital Twin,” Jansen says, noting that when a piece is moved, so is its data. Users move buildings around and leverage third parties to mock up a multitude of scenarios, from capital planning investment alternatives to traffic planning and environmental impact simulations.

The Smart World Pro platform addresses all facets of real estate development, including site selection, design, planning, construction, operations, maintenance, sales and leasing. Deployment of Digital Twin strategies for any of these uses across an organization enables Digital Twin models to grow and become more robust with data and use, Jansen notes.

Users can leverage SmartWorld Pro’s Digital Twin solutions to aggregate, query, visualize and analyze all data in a single, easy-to-use 3D dashboard customized to suit a client’s needs.

Originally developed by the creators of Google Earth, a Smart World Pro feature leverages an earth model engine that makes it possible for users to place assets and data wherever they like. Users can navigate to cities anywhere in the world and see a trove of 1 million urban data sets that range from zoning, building permits, land use and property transactions to consumer data, like the locations of ATMs and convenience stores.

AI- and ML-driven apps ensure that these urban context data points, combined with data from inside the owners’ buildings, drive new discoveries and efficiencies across multiple functions.

Jansen said the platform also provides tools to help developers achieve aggressive energy goals, like the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. This mandate calls for all new commercial construction to be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2030, 50 percent to be retrofitted to ZNE by 2030, and 50 percent of new major state building renovations to be ZNE by 2025.

According to Jansen, the system can help building owners achieve those goals by: (1) creating scenarios of outcomes of deploying various smart building/energy conservation strategies; (2) simulating the impact of on-site renewable deployment options and results; and (3) helping to pool off-site renewable energy suppliers to offset remaining fossil fuel dependencies.

Cityzenith is currently on the verge of forming a partnership with a global property management firm to provide a Digital Twin solution for the firm’s operations division, which manages billions square feet of real estate worldwide.

The firm is looking at deploying Cityzenith’s technology across its entire portfolio, following a successful pilot that demonstrated that it could help staff with forecasting activities and provide immediate benefits for clients and tenants.

About Willow

Willow is the digital twin for the built world.

Our mission is to empower every person and organisation to connect with the built world in a whole new way.  

For more, visit www.willowinc.com

For media enquiries, email us at PR@willowinc.com

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Rachel Ebalan-Ramirez

General Manager, Manila

As the GM/Principal of the Manila Studio, Rachel leads the overall operations and general management of the branch office to ensure all activities are aligned with the company business objectives.

She serves as a key part of the Operations Executive Group with input into the strategies formulated for operational growth, practice improvements, efficient resourcing and project delivery, culture development, and structure across the whole business.

Rachel oversees all Manila-based Shared-Services Teams and manages the execution of an effective and collaborative approach in providing support to the global company operations.

Corporate Connect Stages 2 & 3

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    30,000 sqm (322,917 sqft)
  • Architect: WMK
  • Contractor: Taylor Construction
  • Developer: Goodman
  • Owner/Operator: Goodman
  • Engaged by: Taylor Construction
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecture

100 Queens Street

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    34,900 sqm (375,660 sqft)
  • Architect: Kirsten Thompson Architects
  • Owner/Operator: GPT Group
  • Engaged by: GPT Group
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

32 Smith Street

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    26,000 sqm (279,861 sqft)
  • Architect: Fender Katsalidis
  • Owner/Operator: GPT
  • Engaged by: GPT
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

567 Collins Street

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    55,000 sqm (592,015 sqft)
  • Architect: COX and Spowers
  • Developer: Investa
  • Owner/Operator: Investa
  • Engaged by: Investa
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering, WillowTwin™

Barrack Place, 151 Clarence Street

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    20,000 sqm (236,806 sqft)
  • Architect: Architectus
  • Contractor: Built
  • Developer: Investa
  • Owner/Operator: Investa
  • Engaged by: Investa
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering, WillowTwin™

Sydney Metro Martin Place

  • Sector: Commercial / Rail
  • Size/scale:
    20,000 sqm (236,806 sqft)
  • Architect: JPW, Grimshaw and Tzannes
  • Developer: Macquarie Group
  • Owner/Operator: Macquarie Group / Transport for NSW
  • Engaged by: Savills / Macquarie Group
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

Tempo Drummoyne

  • Sector: Residential
  • Size/scale:
    4,000 sqm (43,055 sqft)
  • Architect: FKM
  • Developer: EG Funds
  • Engaged by: FKM
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecture

Sydney Light Rail

  • Sector: Light Rail
  • Size/scale:
    12 KM Span 19 stations
  • Architect: Grimshaw
  • Owner/Operator: Transport for NSW
  • Engaged by: Grimshaw
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecture

Summer Hill

  • Sector: Residential
  • Size/scale:
    24,789 sqm (266,826 sqft)
  • Architect: HASSELL
  • Developer: EG Funds
  • Engaged by: HASSELL
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecture

Waterloo Road Campus

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    120,773 sqm (1,229,990 sqft)
  • Architect: Architectus
  • Contractor: John Holland Group
  • Developer: John Holland Group
  • Owner/Operator: John Holland Group
  • Engaged by: John Holland Group
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

Global Switch Ultimo

  • Sector: Data Centre
  • Size/scale:
    40,000 sqm (430,556 sqft)
  • Architect: DEM
  • Owner/Operator: Global Switch
  • Engaged by: Global Switch
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

Pittsburgh International Airport

  • Sector: Aviation
  • Size/scale:
    58,714 sqm (631,992 sqft)
  • Architect: Gensler / Luis Videl & Architects
  • Owner/Operator: Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Engaged by: Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

60 Martin Place

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    40,000 sqm (430, 556 sqft)
  • Architect: HASSELL
  • Contractor: Lendlease
  • Developer: Investa
  • Owner/Operator: Investa
  • Engaged by: Investa
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering, WillowTwin™ platform

480 Hay Street /
The Westin Hotel Perth

  • Sector: Hospitality, Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    48,000 sqm (516,667 sqft)
  • Architect: HASSELL
  • Contractor: BCG
  • Owner/Operator:
    Westin (Marriott Hotels)
  • Engaged by: HASSELL
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecture

The Sandstones Precinct

  • Sector: Hospitality, Conference
  • Size/scale:
    30,000 sqm (322,917 sqft)
  • Architect: MAKE Architects
  • Contractor: Built
  • Owner/Operator:
    Pontiac Land Group
  • Developer: Pontiac Land Group
  • Engaged by: Pontiac Land Group
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecture

The Star Sovereign Resort

  • Sector: Hospitality
  • Size/scale:
    148,644 sqm (1.6 million sqft)
  • Architect: HBA (Design)
  • Contractor: Built
  • Owner/Operator:
    The Star Entertainment
  • Engaged by: The Star Entertainment
  • Willow’s role: Digital Architecuture (Lead Consultant)

The Ribbon

  • Sector: Hospitality, Residential (Serviced apartments)
  • Size/scale:
    54,800 sqm (589,862 sqft)
  • Architect: HASSELL (Design Architect)
  • Contractor: Grocon
  • Developer: Grocon
  • Owner/Operator: Greaton/W Hotel (Marriot Hotels)
  • Engaged by: Grocon
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering, Digital Architecture

477 Collins Street

  • Sector: Commercial
  • Size/scale:
    55,000 sqm (592,015 sqft)
  • Architect: Grimshaw
  • Owner/Operator: Mirvac
  • Engaged by: Mirvac
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

Top Golf (various locations)

  • Sector: Hospitality
  • Size/scale:
    572,250-726,790 sqm (6,159,647-7,823,102 sqft)
  • Contractor: Arco Murray
  • Owner/Operator: Top Golf
  • Engaged by: Arco Murray
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering

Vanessa Iezzi

Head of People & Culture

Passionate about creating great workplaces and developing people, Vanessa is responsible for establishing the key foundations to scale Willow’s culture globally.

This includes overseeing global recruitment, talent mapping, people development frameworks, and driving engagement with Willow’s values throughout the organisation.

Tom White

Chief of Staff

Tom is Willow’s Chief of Staff. He delivers a full range of services across the business, developing business and project plans for initiatives that cut across the organization, including new offerings, partnership opportunities, improvements to internal operations whilst developing new programs to support the strategic direction of the organization.

Justin Gurney

Principal/Regional Head of WillowDigital

Justin is inspired by Willow’s vision and drive to transform the property industry. Justin made the decision to join Willow as Principal and Regional Head of WillowDigital in order to work on the delivery of iconic projects through smart technology. He is responsible for the delivery of complex and large-scale projects in the hotel, commercial office, and high-rise residential sectors while bringing to Willow over 25 years of experience in architecture and construction.

Dr. Michael Easson, AM FRICS FAICD

Chairman and Co-Founder

As Chairman, Michael guides Willow’s vision and strategic direction, provides corporate governance oversight and assists the company in fostering strategic long-term relationships. Michael’s experience in infrastructure and property is extensive across the private and public sectors, with over 35 years experience in real estate development and investment.

Adam Geha

Executive Director and Co-Founder

Adam is responsible for guiding Willow’s capital raising activities and regularly reviewing financial strategy and performance.

In addition to his role with Willow, Adam is the CEO and Co-founder of EG Funds Management, where he has led and supervised over USD 1.8 billion in commercial property investment and development for over 20 years.

Lee Fogarty

Principal & Head of Pre-Contracts

Lee takes a hands-on approach to managing and growing Willow’s international operations both as an architect and practice director.

Lee has been involved in a large number of projects from design phase into construction and operation. He knows how to harness the latest technologies to build buildings in the virtual world creating streamlined documentation that facilitates more cost and time efficient projects. In the future, Lee believes we will move completely away from 2D drawings into the 3D virtual world resulting in streamlined and more effective construction and procurement methods.

Shaun Klann

President - USA & Europe

Shaun leads the United States and European operations of Willow. With a background combining engineering, strategic consulting, and property development, Shaun has come to be recognised as one of North America’s most sought after smart building experts.

Shaun is our lead spokesperson for growth in the US and Europe.

Rani Adam

Chief Innovation Engineer

As Chief Innovation Engineer at Willow, Rani oversees the technical development and engineering on a global scale. His experience to date, having produced technology for a spectrum of sectors, is both visionary and practical. In creation of technology for e-commerce, rail, fintech, infrastructure and commercial real estate applications, Rani enables effortless user experiences. His experience in complex backend design has allowed for B2B (business-to-business), B2C (business-to-customer), and P2P (peer-to-peer) interactivity and economy. In addition to realising universal applications for technology (spanning web and mobile), Rani is responsible for leading Willow’s Software Engineering Teams through complex and specialised project conditions.

Will Sessions

Chief Information Officer

Will Sessions is the Chief Information Officer at Willow. In this role, he oversees all aspects of IT operations, infrastructure, applications, and architecture within the business. He also manages the strategic technological roadmaps, not to mention new technologies, initiatives, trends, cloud technologies, data analytics and information workflow.

Will’s technical background is grounded in the infrastructure space including network, computer server, security, and virtualisation before moving into new Cloud technologies.

Prior to joining Willow in 2017, he held consulting and strategic roles at companies such as Versent, SunRice, and CIMIC.

Sallyann Allman

Business Development Director

As Business Development Director, Sallyann leads Willow’s new business development strategy and customer engagement.

Queens Plaza Park

  • Sector: Commercial Multi-Family
  • Size/scale:
    92,903 sqm (1 million sqft)
  • Architect: Handel Architects
  • Developer: Durst Organisation
  • Owner/Operator: Durst Organisation
  • Engaged by: Durst Organisation
  • Willow’s role: Digital Engineering, WillowTwin™ platform

Daniel Isserow

Chief Finance Officer

An experienced finance professional with 8 years investment banking experience together with 4 years working in the Big 4, Daniel brings the fiscal discipline required to successfully grow the business and ensure its operational efficiency. Daniel is responsible for the areas of Finance, Legal, HR, and IT across the business.

Daniel is a qualified Chartered Accountant and holds a Master of Taxation from UNSW.

Daniel Kalnins

Global Head of Digital

As the Global Head of Digital, Daniel is responsible for the technical and strategic direction of the Digital Engineering Services Team. He is also a member of the Senior Executive Team in helping shape the path of the current and future business focus.

Gerard Francis

Managing Director and Chief Operations Officer

As Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, Gerard is the co-head of the Executive Team (with the CEO) and manages the day-to-day operations of the organisation, its people and resources.

Gerard is responsible for implementing the strategy approved by the board ensuring that the organisation structure and processes meet the strategic and cultural needs of the organisation.

Gerard has utilised this depth of knowledge and leadership to provide strong governance, strategic direction and operational stability as Willow enters a new phase of growth and maturity.

Dale Brett

Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder

Dale Brett is the Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer at Willow, Australia’s fastest growing provider of smart technology for the built world. With a personal drive to solve complex and real-world problems with technological solutions, Dale leads the technology, product, and innovation at Willow.

In the last two years alone, Dale has led the ideation and implementation of groundbreaking technologies such as the WillowTwin™ Technology Platform, the Marketplace, and the WillowRail Operations to name a few. The technology is now being utilised by the world’s largest real estate owners, including Microsoft, AXA, and Investa Property Group. The common goal being, to make the world more sustainable, connected, intuitive, and innovative.

Joshua Ridley

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder

As CEO, Joshua oversees the strategic direction, growth, and management of the company. He is passionate about culture, people, and growing a global company that has a positive impact on our world.

Joshua has built a reputation for his strong leadership and innovation with some of the largest and most admired owners of infrastructure and real estate including the Durst Organisation and Macquarie. He believes in building a global network of strong partners and has spearheaded partnerships with leading organisations such as Microsoft, thyssenkrupp, and Strukton Rail.

He has overseen the development of over $10B of projects through Design and Construction in a senior leadership capacity, and has partnered with preeminent architects, including KPF, Foster & Partners, Perkins Will, and Grimshaw. In Australia, he has worked on major projects with companies including Investa, GPT, Mirvac, Grocon, Brookfield, Multiplex, John Holland, CPB, Pontiac, Star, and NSW Government.

Joshua is our lead corporate spokesperson, covering the history of Willow, our vision for the built world, client engagements and breaking stories.

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