The genesis of the Carleton Digital Campus can be found in two research projects funded by Autodesk Research, Carleton University, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The first (2013-2015) – Digital Campus Innovation (DCI) – was part of Autodesk’s ongoing development of the building performance management tool, Dasher 360. For CIMS, the project involved the creation of highly detailed Revit models of three Carleton buildings: Mackenzie, Canal, and Architecture – including the subterranean infrastructure that connects them. They were selected because they represented a proximate cluster of buildings with diverse programs, construction technologies, and mechanical and electrical systems. Further, the Canal Building was equipped with sensors that could provide near real-time data for key performance indicators. This relatively small sample of the campus fabric allowed us to focus our modelling efforts and to develop our workflows before extending the scope in subsequent phases of the project. Even at this early stage, DCI was imagined as a single platform for integrating research, teaching opportunities, and campus operations.
For the Carleton Digital Campus, one of the most significant outcomes of this first exercise was the university’s recognition of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a valuable asset for campus planning and maintenance. Beginning in 2015, the facilities management team at Carleton made BIM a deliverable for all new buildings and building retrofits. This has allowed CIMS to focus on modelling existing conditions and infrastructure, while incorporating models from architecture and construction management consultants into the federated model of the campus.
The second project (2019-2021) that has contributed significantly to the development of theCarleton Digital Campus is called, “Sensor-based UnifiedSimulation Techniques forAdvanced In-building Networks”(SUSTAIN). SUSTAIN builds on DCIto develop advanced data visualization and simulation tools for the Architecture,Engineering, Construction, Owner and Operator(AECOO) industry. This project has providedCIMS with an opportunity to both create additionalBIM assets and to develop expertise with real-time data exchange between physical and digital entities. Currently – working with colleagues Gabriel Wainer (Systems and Computer Engineering) and Liam O’Brien (Civil and Environmental Engineering) – we are extending the capabilities of the model to support a diverse suite of applications that include minimizing energy use, emergency planning, and occupancy optimization.
While the Carleton Digital Campus has been recognized for the development of BIM technology at multiple scales, it is in our commitment to enhancing the experience of the campus for the Carleton community that remains our driving force. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for most students to return to campus in September 2020. In a matter of weeks, CIMS was able to repurpose the model to provide an interactive online tour of facilities managed by the Faculty of Engineering and Design. The experience provided first year students with a sense of Carleton as a place shared by other students, faculty, and staff. The tour was expanded and refined through the fall and relaunched in January 2021. We will continue to develop this aspect of the model and to explore more immersive forms of engagement and community building. The Carleton Digital Campus has also served as an inspiration to dream large – to imagine a national digital twin.
In April 2020, we received support from the New Frontiers in Research Fund to assemble a multi- disciplinary team to address the question of what a national Digital Twin for the AECOO could be. Our two-year project, Imagining Canada’s Digital Twin, will develop a national, inclusive, and multidisciplinary research consortium to begin developing the technical, cultural, and ethical framework for building Canada’s digital twin. While still unproven as an appropriate or operational technology for the AECOO, we see value in the metaphor of a “digital twin”. A digital twin is not just data and technology. It is a still-fluid idea – a living metaphor in Paul Ricoeur’s terms – with roots in both place making and cybernetics. The metaphor of the digital twin posits questions for reflection, action, and governance that could enable cross-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary collaboration – something that is sorely needed in the AECOO industry and across Canada more generally. Will you join us?