Home Articles New Technology to Create Sustainable Buildings, Communities and Cities

Technology to Create Sustainable Buildings, Communities and Cities


A new, exciting tech development that is growing in momentum, not only in construction, but across all industries, is that of the digital twin; a physical entity linked to a digital reproduction of an asset using sensors. Digital twins act as a live digital model of a physical asset and can function as essential problem-solvers, needed to improve asset performance, influence future design, and ultimately reduce risk.

This technology becomes particularly relevant for the construction industry in India where buildings consume nearly a third of the total electricity consumed in the country. The Niti Ayog estimates that as Indian cities grow, the energy demand in buildings will increase by more than 800 percent in 2047 compared to 2012. The country also faces the trilemma of achieving objectives of higher energy access alongside higher energy security and higher sustainability .

Buildings have changed much over recent years, but the way we design, handover and operate them hasn’t. The building industry needs to shake off its ‘slow to change’ malaise and catch up with other industries in their use of digital technology and data.

The technology is here!

Building simulation software has been around for decades and has been used by architects and engineers to help them design, construct and operate their buildings.

With the addition of real-time sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create digital twins of entire communities and cities and simulate how things will look and interact in a huge range of different scenarios.

Things like “What opportunity is there to use waste heat?” and “How can we meet energy demand from different sources?” and, “How can we improve control strategies to make all our buildings healthier and more efficient?”.

IES is one of the largest building analytics teams in the world and has traditionally been best known for its building simulation software: The Virtual Environment (IESVE).  However, in the past few years the company has carried out a massive amount of work behind the scenes to develop its latest technological offering; The ICL (intelligent Communities Lifecycle). This technology which was launched last month is an environmental digital twin for sustainable communities, that enables resilient cities, campuses, portfolios, buildings and local networks.

Throughout the development of the ICL there have been many ground-breaking pilot projects and rigorous testing to bring this technology and advanced capabilities to the construction industry. The ICL can not only be used for design, but in operation, masterplanning, as well as across communities and portfolios to integrate heat, cooling and electricity networks.

IES recently carried out a project in collaboration with the Building Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore using the ICL.



Building Construction Authority Academic Campus

IES and the BCA have successfully demonstrated the performance optimization of the clusters of buildings that make up the BCA Academy Campus (BCCA).

The project was brought to life through various tools that are part of the ICL technology. A 3D master planning model of the campus was created using the Intelligent Community Design(iCD) tool, which along with Community Information Model (iCIM) helped in the visualization and analysis of energy and resource use within the Campus. IES then created detailed building energy models for existing buildings and proposed buildings to investigate optimal design and retrofit solutions to meet the BCA’s stringent energy performance requirements. For this purpose, the Virtual Environment (VE) was used for analyzing building performance. For existing buildings, real time operating data was collected using iSCAN, which can be used as inputs in the VE to create energy model as close to real life as possible. This helped in further modelling retrofit solutions for the existing buildings and check if expected benefits would be realized.

New Buildings

Two new buildings were planned for the campus- a Super Low Energy high Rise (SLEB) and a Zero Energy Mid Rise (ZEB 2.0). The iCD Masterplanning model helped to optimize the new buildings’ positioning so that the PV generation on existing buildings is not impacted by shading due to the proposed buildings. The Virtual Environment analyzed the impact of various energy conservation measures like:

  • High performance glazing
  • LED lighting
  • Daylight Harvesting
  • High Efficiency Chillers
  • Demand Control Ventilation
  • On-Site PV Generation

The following savings were determined compared to Singapore’s Green Mark NRB-2015 baseline model:

  • SLEB – 77 kWh/m² per year and a 57% energy saving
  • ZEB 2.0 – 40 kWh/m² per year and a 67% energy saving

Existing Buildings

Using the iSCAN and VE, various operational faults in an existing Zero Energy Buildings were identified and rectified. The calibrated energy model which used real life operational data also allowed to examine retrofit opportunities which predicted a 21% savings opportunity. IES was able to achieve an exceptionally high calibration of 98.9% between the energy model and actual energy usage. This reinforces confidence in the energy savings predictions from the proposed retrofit improvements.


As an industry, we know what we need to do and we can see that it can be done. The technology to really make a difference is here and available now. These types of projects are leading the way and proving that if new and more efficient processes and technologies are used on a wider scale, then the building industry can reduce its energy demands while increasing its use of sustainable energy resources not to mention significantly reduce its carbon emissions and help to slow down climate change.

IES and our users have already made a significant impact on reducing the built environments energy consumption. And these numbers are continually rising as more and more building professionals understand the social, environmental and economic benefits of using integrated performance analysis tools.

We should be proud of what we’ve achieved so far. However, with recent climate reports issuing stark warnings on the urgency to act on climate change, the call to action is clear. We need to do more and together we know we can do more. Let’s push for change and make a significant impact.


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