"It is infinitely easier to visit a building online than in person"
For over a year HELIX has offered "digital twins" to large technology tenants and owners looking for accurate existing conditions documentation. Our clients paid for "CAD plans" fast and for less, but they got much more. A digital twin appears to be a convenient way to view and download accurate plans/models and it is. But the real value of a digital twin lies in the fact that it is infinitely easier to explore a building online than in person. This was true before COVID-19 and it is painfully, unavoidably more true now.
When a building is fully digitized, not captured in a pretty 3D "doll-house" or a rendered fly-through of the public areas, but completely and accurately captured, good things happen. It can be explored, analyzed and inspected anywhere, anytime and unexpected value surfaces. Architecture, construction and real estate management, government oversight, insurance and finance, all stand to benefit from ready and complete access to building information online. Reducing the time and cost of unnecessary trips to the building is just the start.
A commercial real estate broker told me that “when I hold an open house for a building, especially downtown, I might get 40 people who say they are coming and 10 show up.” “With a good digital twin they are more likely to show up and when they do they are further along in the buying process. But significantly, they can forward the digital twin to others. I end up reaching people that are not on my list, some of whom are not even in the US.” Digital buildings travel instantly and over infinite distance.
Reaching a larger audience, some of whom are inconveniently far away, is great for listing agents and owner looking to lease or sell space quickly and to drum up more bidders. The same is true when bidders are solicited for repairs, renovations or services. By making it unnecessary to personally visit a building the barrier to providing a bid drops. With more bids the likelihood of a better price follows naturally. A GC in Silicon Valley told me that “these days it is hard to get even 3-5 bids from subs these days. It feels like some of them send in high bids as if to say ‘if you will pay extra, I will make time for you.’” By removing distance from the bidding cost contractors and subcontractors from outside of the normal distance can provide bids. Assuming the digital twin is sufficiently accurate and thorough, in-person site surveys can be reduced and even eliminated and more bids collected.
Contractors and fabricators need to generate accurate bids in order to ensure project profitability (and feasibility). More visits to the site are required to avoid missing details that may lead to delays and extra cost. Multiple meetings and reviews with team members on all sides are held to understand what is desired and how to meet, approximate or adjust expectations in order to achieve their business objectives and still allow for quality design. Every site visit, every meeting, costs time and money and every miscommunication leads to delay and/or compromise. A complete, easy to digest digital version of the design that can be simply communicated with remote teams and illustrated with thorough photographic documentation of existing conditions promises to reduce visits and meetings. Better information, available when and where required, holds the promise of bids with less "padding" and execution with fewer mistakes.
Scheduling time to meet “on-site” is difficult in the best times. Conversations, evaluating options and bid preparation happen in the early morning, in the evenings an on weekends. Calls and conversations get tagged onto unrelated calls and meetings. By having a readily available digital version of the building questions can be answered, options considered, arguments illustrated in real time, without delay, disruption or added cost. For real estate transactions, “time kills deals”. For construction small delays can have massive down-stream costs. Instantaneous, detailed reference, click to download plans and models, the ability to explore the roof, the basement, locked rooms with a mouse click is not just “as good as” visiting, it is better.
Tools that allow more comprehensive, more accurate and simpler to use digital representations of buildings and building designs promise to lubricate real estate transactions, cut down management and operations costs, and ultimately improve project and real estate investment profitability. HELIX is building a platform to transform existing buildings into shareable data that may become the cornerstone of the next generation of building planning, construction optimizations and real estate investment optimization.