Ontario testing digital twins on major construction projects

The province plans to investigate if the technology can improve project costs and schedules.

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital twins are virtual models that can help identify and solve problems before construction begins on critical infrastructure projects like hospitals, highways, and transit.
  • By using digital twins to map underground utilities, the province hopes to reduce delays, cost overruns, and accidents during construction.
  • Ontario is partnering with various organizations like universities and municipalities to learn from their experience with digital twins and explore wider applications of this technology.

The Whole Story:

The Ontario government plans to spend $5 million testing the application and benefits of digital modelling technology, known as digital twins, to help deliver key infrastructure projects such as hospitals, highways and transit. 

“Our government is exploring innovative new technologies to help build critical infrastructure faster and more cost-effectively,” said Kinga Surma, minister of infrastructure. “From start to finish, digital twins will help ensure that project partners involved in the building process have access to timely, accurate and state-of-the-art data to advance the delivery of Ontario’s infrastructure for our growing communities.”

Digital twins are virtual models of existing and planned assets that when mapped for construction projects, can be used to help identify and resolve problems before work begins. Using a digital twin for underground utilities, for example, can help reduce the risk of delays and cost overruns on projects.

The province has selected the Trillium Health Partners’ Peter Gilgan Mississauga Hospital redevelopment, the Ontario Place rebuild and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension to test the digital modelling technology. 

Officials noted that these projects were chosen because of their complex utility systems such as existing and planned electrical, water, gas and wastewater services. By identifying and mapping the location of these underground utilities in a virtual model, the province can help avoid costly and dangerous utility conflicts, which will help improve worker safety, save money and ensure projects are completed on time.

They aren’t the only ones: 

  • Infrastructure Ontario is partnering with local and global organizations, including Toronto Metropolitan University and the United Kingdom’s Geospatial Commission, to leverage their experience with digital twins and explore solutions.
  • The City of Toronto and York Region are using digital twins to monitor wear and tear on water infrastructure in real-time to support better decision-making and allocation of public resources.
  • The City of Ottawa is leveraging aerial data collection and 3D mapping technology which could be used in digital modelling to enhance its urban planning and asset management programs.

Digital twins have seen some adoption outside the province. Last year, SNC Lavalin (now AtkinsRéalis) announced it had built a digital twin of Vancouver’s Canada Line transit system. They use it determine what future work needs to be done and to avoid future issues. This is particularly important as the track runs 21 hours a day and repairs can only be done during a brief window.


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