Panel discussion at PROVADA: Airport Corridor digital twin – “A new tool that creates new partnerships”

  17 June 2022  |    News

SADC is taking part in the development of a digital twin for the area known as the Airport Corridor, which stretches from Amsterdam Zuidas via Schiphol to Hoofddorp. Partners in the project include the municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer, the province of North Holland and Schiphol Group. The aim of creating the digital twin is to enable better decision-making for the area by providing partners with a shared, up-to-date information base. A digital twin can simulate the structural impact of development choices and then monitor and learn from the real-life consequences of those decisions. The Airport Corridor is an economically important area, but it’s also an area where we pursue social and sustainable goals. The digital twin will enable SADC to balance social, sustainable and economic considerations in its decision-making. Watch the animation (in Dutch) below to learn more about the digital twin.

The basis is in place, but the digital twin may never be complete. To discuss the potential and the future of digital twins in regional area development, Peter Heida, SADC’s process manager for the digital twin, organised a panel discussion that was held at PROVADA 2022 (the Netherland’s largest real estate fair).

The state of play

Emile Revier, partner at PosadMaxwan, is involved in building the Airport Corridor digital twin. He said: “This digital twin is very different from a GIS application, mainly due to its architecture. We ensure that all data and analyses are fully traceable. The goal is to create a platform that more and more parties that are involved with the Airport Corridor can join.” In addition, delving into the data together means all parties can learn a lot, said Revier: “Sometimes the data says something different than what you expect: for example, we found a lot of logistics activity on the Zuidas – when you filter this by square metres and by number of employees, you see there are urban distribution companies located there. So you realise that your sectoral approach doesn’t always quite capture new economic dynamics.”

Abe Ferwerda, project manager at SADC, added: “We also see that this project brings different parties and different ‘blood groups’ together. You need data experts, you need strategists, you need visionaries, and you need – as Emile puts it – a solid librarian who makes sure the database is fully traceable. That also shows the potential of a digital twin: you really have to collaborate across disciplines and build something together.”

The promise

Digital twins are often seen as a solution for everything – a promise of ‘one press of a button and you have all the answers’. Ilco Slikker, senior consultant in digital twinning at Royal HaskoningDHV, said: “You can’t buy a digital twin, you have to build it. Digital twins are too often seen as a purely technical innovation, but in fact, it’s all about what you need them for: what question do you want to answer? A digital twin combines multiple technologies – from sensors to AI – but what counts is the strategy.” Revier added: “Digital twin projects are often terminated after a few years, because the money has run out. You see parties approach a digital twin purely from a data standpoint, purely from one question, or purely from technology. In this programme, we are trying to bring all these aspects together: we use available data, we practise applying the technology, but we are always making choices about what we do and don’t do based on the broad goals for the Airport Corridor.”

Lieke Dreijerink, programme manager for the AMS Institute’s Ideal(s) Monitor project, agreed that the project’s added value lies not in an eventual answer, but in the journey towards it. “A shared data platform offers transparency: you can explain what you do and don’t know and why you are making a specific choice.” There is an ongoing collaboration between the Ideal(s) Monitor and the digital twin project. Dreijerink said: “The aim of the Ideal(s) Monitor is to see if we are measuring the right things, given the ideals we are pursuing in the city. In our partnership with the digital twin project, we want to make that concrete: can we visualise the social minimum – in terms of energy, income or community involvement – for this area? If you can do that, then you have a much better idea of what you should respond to as a government.”

The follow-up

Caren van der Merwe, sustainability consultant at Rabobank, said: “2050 seems far away, but when we discuss the sustainability challenge with clients, they are shocked when they realise that within 28 years their entire real-estate portfolio will have to be transformed. We often focus on buildings, but of course the strength of this digital twin is that you look at an entire regional system. I see huge opportunities for [addressing issues] ranging from the water challenge to waste management and from reducing heat stress to bringing stakeholders in one area together.”

Abe Ferwerda looked ahead, saying: “We are now working with public parties and knowledge partners. It would be great if we could turn the digital twin into a public-private partnership, within which parties dare to share data. In terms of content, we want to start simulating broad value creation. The possible extension of the Noord/Zuid metro line would be a game-changer for the Airport Corridor: we want to visualise the financial-economic, social and sustainability impact this would have. And there are pressing issues – for instance relating to grid congestion – that our digital platform allows us to approach in a new way. But it is not just a ‘good news show’: we have to dare to make clear choices. The potential is enormous, but we have to focus and make sure that each additional extension module adds value to the development of the Airport Corridor.”