Researchers in Germany have developed a ‘digital twin’ of Herrenberg, a small city just outside Stuttgart, to show how such technology can support urban planning and development.
It draws on a wide range of data to produce a comprehensive model of how the city functions and demonstrate how changes in design could affect everyday life for people who live and work there.
The project – which involves experts from the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS), the Fraunhofer Institute, the University of Stuttgart and Kommunikationsbüro Ulmer – uses high-performance computing (HPC) technologies for analysing, integrating and visualising data about the urban environment in order to simulate the complex, dynamic processes that should be considered in urban planning.
The researchers began by producing a 2D outline of physical grids in a city, offering a framework for performing spatial analysis, such as predicting the likely paths that car or pedestrian traffic might take to move from one point to another.
Next, they added geographic information system (GIS) data and traffic control systems data in order to incorporate topography, road geometry and realistic traffic flows in more detail, adding another layer of complexity. Using the open-source fluid dynamics code OpenFOAM – which is more often used for modelling fuel injector sprays or aircraft aerodynamics – they created realistic models of the movement of wind and emissions through the city.
The team also developed an app inviting Herrenberg residents to submit their emotional responses to different areas in the city. Residents provided qualitative data about whether certain locations feel comfortable, unsafe or ugly, for example.
“Emotions like joy and fear, the aesthetic experience of green space and architecture, and other emotion-driven factors play a major role in the success of urban design, but are very difficult to represent in architectural models or simulations,” explained Dr Fabian Dembski of HLRS. “Our approach is an early attempt to gather and incorporate these complicated datasets.”
Using a Faro 3D laser scanner, the team created a 3D visualisation of Herrenberg city centre – an immersive virtual reality (VR) model that enables decision makers to see abstract data “come to life”.
“By allowing decision makers to experience an immersive vista in VR, we are helping them experience it more realistically, ultimately helping them better assess and evaluate designs, plans, or other scenarios,” Dr Dembski said.
A report on the project has been published in the journal Sustainability.
In the next stage of the project, the researchers will explore how artificial intelligence (AI) applications could be used to better represent the multiple factors affecting how residents emotionally experience their city.
The next decade will see a transformation in how we live, work and travel in cities. For an insight into how smart tech will change the face of the built environment, read Osborne Clarke’s report Future Proof Real Estate: Is the property sector ready for the 2020s?
Tags: digital twins