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Australia’s way to better plan, design and manage its cities

The last couple of weeks have been very significant for Digital Built Australia.

On the 24th of February, Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello launched the New South Wales Spatial Digital Twin (NSW SDT). It’s a virtual 4D (3D + time) model of the Western Sydney area’s built and natural environment.

The government has worked with Australia’s national science agency to create a virtual 4D model of the Western Sydney built and natural environment. It is an area which is the 3rd largest economy in Australia and home to 44% of Sydney’s population.

Australia aims at leveraging digital twinning technology to better plan and manage its cities. The NSW SDT is an open platform that can visualise 3D and 4D data over time such as buildings, strata plans, terrain, property boundaries, and utilities including power, water and sewer pipes. The twinning platform is being developed by CSIRO’s Data61, the digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, and NSW Department of Customer Service’s Spatial Services.

The secure-by-design “federated” platform incorporates Data61’s open-source catalogue technology, MAGDA, which aims at bringing together data from public agencies and the private sector to enable the NSW government to better communicate plans for infrastructure development to citizens. It can be accessed by a web browser and while most of the data is available to the public, the built-in security features ensure only authorised individuals have access to certain types of data.

This first phase of the NSW Spatial Digital Twin includes visualisations of the local government areas that comprise the Western Sydney City Deal and Greater Parramatta to the Olympic Peninsula.

“The digital twin represents a step-change in how we visualise environments and processes taking place in them,” says Mats Henrikson, geospatial web systems group leader at CSIRO’s Data61.

As it was not already an exciting time for digital innovation enthusiastic like me, to witness the momentum in embracing digital twin technology at national scale, yesterday the State of Victoria officially announced its own digital agenda, the Victoria Digital Asset Strategy (VDAS).

Over 400 people joined its official launch at sold-out MelBIM, at RMIT University in Melbourne. The Office of Projects Victoria’s CEO Dr. Kevin Doherty presented the VDAS Guidance to the packed audience. The VDAS team comprising Dr. Collette Burke, Tim Mumford and Oskar Casasayas have thus reached a historical milestone in adopting best practices in innovation technology embracing more consistencies across the lifecycle of all built environment projects in Victoria.

The launch was followed by Melissa Harris from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, presenting Victoria’s first Digital Twin, “Fishermans Bend”.

Fishermans Bend is Australia’s largest urban renewal project, located on the south of the Yarra River in the suburb of Port Melbourne aiming at accommodating 80,000 people and 80,000 jobs by 2050. The project is in the design stage of a 30-year renewal program.

In partnership with the University of Melbourne and Victorian Government, The Digital Twin provides 3D context and illustrates the human and built relationships within the local environment, modelling of a physical asset’s design and condition, enabling better decision-making on the management of existing and future infrastructure.

“The Fishermans Bend digital twin gives us a ‘superpower’ for the development of a more sustainable city”, says Mellissa Harris.

The launch of the New South Wales Spatial Digital Twin (NSW SDT) and VDAS represent considerable breakthrough in promoting digital engineering to develop and maintain cost-effective, innovative and value-adding assets. It embraces innovation in the built environment in generating new insights and tackles the complex challenges of urban planning and renewal for the creation of more sustainable, smarter cities for all Australians.

About the author

Cristina Savian

Cristina Savian is the founder and managing director at BE-WISE, a consultancy firm specialized in helping start-ups and SME to scale-up and bring new technology into the construction market. She's a member of The IET’s Built Environment Panel in the UK and the National Workgroup for the Digital Built and Legal Environment (DBLE) and Australasian BIM Advisory Board Asset Management Technical Working Group in Australia

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