Digitization and BIM pave the way to a more sustainable future at Stellenbosch University Facilities Management

Article by Dr Anro Redelinghuys

Facilities Management of Stellenbosch University is paving its way towards a more sustainable future through digital transformation.

Facilities Management (FM) Teams work hard to reduce energy and water consumption in order to create a more sustainable future. Also, throughout the year with online monitoring of electrical and water usage, the teams at FM can then investigate at the different areas where possible savings can occur throughout. During the South African lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the entire campus was on shutdown, energy savings up to 50% were achieved.

In the mid-1990s the first electrical meters were installed on a small scale for billing purposes. In the early 2000s, the first digital meters for monitoring the energy consumption were implemented and could only communicate to two desktop computers. Currently, there is already more than 700 electrical and water meters installed across the university campus to measure water and energy consumption from anywhere in the world. With the integration of the Internet of Things, people can interact with this data to make better informed decisions regarding water and energy savings and therefore striving towards a sustainable campus.

Dr Anro Redelinghuys, Assistant Technical Officer in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, joined the Facilities Management Team to help build towards the vision of a smart and sustainable campus. He is a mechatronic engineer in the field of Digital Twin development.

Dr Redelinghuys says: “We envisage that FM develops a Digital Masterplan which entails a Campus Digital Twin, where the entire campus is seamlessly integrated with its virtual counterpart through real-time data/information exchange.” According to the University of Stellenbosch Business School Blog (13 Feb 2018), they mention that: This digital twin technology makes it possible for relevant building managers not only to optimise resource allocation and utilisation, but also to gain a window into real-time maintenance needs.

“A part of this digital transformation is to create a virtual campus through Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives insight and tools to manage buildings and infrastructure. BIM involves the generation and management of virtual representations of physical and functional characteristics of places. The creation of a 3D virtual campus through the BIM project is in collaboration with the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB). The mission of CDBB is to develop and demonstrate policy and practical insights that will enable the exploitation of new and emerging technologies, data and analytics to enhance the natural and built environment, thereby driving up commercial competitiveness and productivity, as well as citizen quality of life and well-being.

“A pilot project is currently underway, where the inside and outside of the Natural Sciences building is being scanned, using 3D laser scanners and point clouds (three-dimensional georeferenced coordination points), to be rendered into a 3D virtual model. The next step is then to add attributes such as real-time temperature and energy consumption to the virtual model to analyse and optimise the performance of the buildings. Nadeem Gafieldien, director of property services, mentioned that all of this forms part of the Stellenbosch University FM to digitize all SU infrastructural assets using BIM, in order to better manage the total life-cycle cost of all the infrastructural assets in a sustainable manner. The first BIM of a Stellenbosch University building will be launched later in this year.”

Photos from the left:

1: 3D laser scanning of a laboratory in the Natural Sciences Building.

2. 3D virtual model of Natural Sciences Building.

3. Dr Anro Redelinghuys.

4. 3D laser scanning setup to scan outside the Natural Sciences building.

Top Inset: 3D virtual model of front view of the Natural Sciences building after being scanned with a 3D laser scanner.