11-13 May 2021
Darling Harbour, ICC SYDNEY

Future planning: Fishermans Bend and its 4D digital twin

A 4D virtual twin of Australia’s largest urban renewal project, Fishermans Bend, is taking BIM to the next level.

Fishermans Bend is an ambitious venture. Described as Australia’s largest urban renewal project, and covering 480 hectares in the heart of Melbourne, the development will revitalise a forgotten corner of the city, connecting the CBD to Port Phillip Bay, and providing homes for 80,000 people – as well as 80,000 jobs – by 2050.

Made up of four residential precincts and an innovation precinct, the neighbourhood will feature everything from high-rise offices to a hospital; from new primary and secondary schools to a new campus for the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering.

Housing choices will be diverse (with a minimum six per cent affordable housing for new developments), smart buildings will be net-zero greenhouse gas emitters, 80 per cent of transport journeys will be sustainable and there will be a big emphasis on green space and community hubs.

The project is at the design stage, and clearly an enormous challenge. But the players involved have a revolutionary tool to help them in their quest: a 4D digital twin of Fishermans Bend that will help them make better decisions.

World-first

“It’s a 3D model, plus elements such as time,” says Professor Abbas Rajabifard, Director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures & Land Administration, which is developing the digital twin in partnership with the Victorian Government.

That ‘time’ layer might be real-time, or a projection over the next 20 years. Using a combination of virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and real-time data from multiple sources, the model can predict everything from morning traffic to the potential impact of climate change. It’s building information modelling (BIM) taken to the next level.

“Architecture firms and construction companies have been using BIM for many years, but for each object, they build or manage,” says Rajabifard. “However, the management of one object impacts on others. What we are doing is connecting all of them … you’re able to interact on a much wider scale and take a holistic approach.”

Digital twins have been developed elsewhere in the world – and the NSW Government is in the process of developing a digital twin of the entire state ­– but Rajabifard says the Fishermans Bend model offers new levels of real-time interactivity.

Digital twins have been developed elsewhere in the world – and the NSW Government is in the process of developing a digital twin of the entire state ­– but Rajabifard says the Fishermans Bend model offers new levels of real-time interactivity.

Accessible to all

The digital twin can be easily accessed by everyone from government departments to members of the public. Spatial information will be inclusive and accessible, using a cloud-based geospatial platform and FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) data principles.

“Decision-makers can engage and interact, and any interested parties can have influence in the conversation,” says Rajabifard.

Eighteen months into the digital twin project, researchers are brainstorming ways of extending the digital twin’s capabilities and contributing to digital twin guidelines in Australia and internationally. The end goal is smarter, more liveable, more sustainable cities – not just in Victoria but around the world.

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