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  • Apr 02, 2024
  • Dalkia Energy Solutions

How conversational AI and digital twins transform commercial building management

Sponsored content from IREM Industry Partner Dalkia Energy Solutions, EDF Group.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and Casey — a facility manager for a large office complex — is receiving constant calls from tenants about unnaturally cold suites. It’s their first week on the job, and they’re not too familiar with the building yet.

Casey takes out a phone, opens an app, and speaks into the microphone.

“Can you show me the office suites with the lowest temperatures right now?”

Casey looks at the phone screen and watches as a graph appears with the requested information. Now Casey knows what equipment to investigate first. If the problem requires help from a mechanical contractor, Casey can always ask for a summary table, screenshot it, and send it to the service manager.

Managing commercial buildings, with their intricate systems and proprietary controls, presents a unique set of challenges for facility operators. From understanding controls systems and ensuring optimal HVAC performance to maintaining a balance between comfort, air quality, and energy efficiency, the responsibilities are vast and complex. However, the industry faces a significant gap between the sophistication of commercial building operations and the availability of trained personnel. Casey may not be a real person, but their story is modeled after very real professionals who can benefit from emerging conversational AI technology in the commercial real estate and building management industries.

Conversational AI in this industry is a groundbreaking development poised to revolutionize facilities management as we know it. Imagine being able to interact with your building systems using natural language, much like chatting with a trusted colleague. Coupled with cloud-based building management systems, conversational AI holds the promise of simplifying complex tasks, improving operational efficiency, and empowering building operators of all skill levels.

Reliable conversational AI starts with the digital twin

Despite its potential, the implementation of conversational AI in commercial buildings faces a critical hurdle: data. Conversational AI, powered by sophisticated algorithms and machine learning, must draw from something to answer questions and make recommendations. For AI like ChatGPT, for example, that’s a mixture of information publicly available on the Internet, data licensed from third parties, and information provided by the tool’s human trainers.

For conversational AI to fulfill its promise in real estate, these tools must use digital twin data directly from the building it’s meant to be assisting. A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical asset, system, or process. It’s important to think of the digital twin as a living entity — unlike a 3D model that statically replicates a physical asset, the digital twin represents the data flowing from systems every minute of every day.

Therein lies the problem: The data generated by building equipment and many management systems today is often messy and non-standardized. This challenge arises from the disparate ways in which varying equipment manufacturers or systems integrators define data points, leading to data silos that don’t speak the same language, even if they try to say the same thing. How can conversational AI accurately assist facilities operators if it cannot understand the building?

By integrating digital twins directly into building management systems, we can ensure clean and accurate data that powers conversational AI with unprecedented precision. This practice is fortunately not far-fetched — cloud-based building management systems often include cleanly tagged data according to industry standards like Project Haystack, right out of the box.

The power of conversational AI for commercial buildings

Now, imagine pairing this digital twin with conversational AI. Suddenly, building operators have access to a wealth of accurate, up-to-date information at their fingertips. Need to troubleshoot an HVAC issue? Simply ask the virtual assistant, and it can pull relevant data from the digital twin in a conversational and approachable manner. The integration of digital twins ensures that conversational AI operates with a high degree of accuracy and reliability. No more guesswork or vague responses; the AI draws upon concrete data from the digital twin to deliver precise insights and actions.

The synergy between conversational AI and digital twins goes beyond simple ask-and-response interactions. When empowered by the digital twin, AI tools in commercial real estate can even build custom analytics dashboards based on an uploaded picture and act on simple user requests like updating building vacation schedules or changing the temperature.

By democratizing access to building management tools through intuitive interfaces, it empowers building operators of all skill levels to optimize their facilities effectively. No specialized training or technical expertise required— just a conversation.

As the real estate industry embraces digital transformation, the marriage of conversational AI and digital twins will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of building management. So, whether you're a seasoned property manager or new to building management, it's time to start talking to your buildings and unlock a world of possibilities in the process.

For further discussion, contact Dan Gaddis at or 303-803-2271.

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