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Modelling interactions between built and natural environments

Kirsten Lamb

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Welcome! This discussion thread is for exploring opportunities to make better decisions about the interfaces between the built and natural environments of the UK by integrating models from these sectors. 

This conversation kicked off at an interdisciplinary workshop on 21 and 29 January, 2021. Participants have been invited to continue the conversation here, and to invite others who might want to join in. 

Questions to discuss include (but are not limited to):  

  • What new questions would a national digital twin (comprised of integrated models from built and natural sectors) be able to answer?  

  • Who are the stakeholders and how would they interact with integrated models and resulting decisions?  

  • What new opportunities and benefits would this integration enable? Where would the biggest impacts be?  

  • What are the research and development priorities based on these opportunities? How might this impact the development of the Information Management Framework (IMF) for a national digital twin?

Finally, a report will come out by the end of March summarising the insights from the workshop, and that will be posted here for your reference.

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  • 1 month later...

I'll start us off. There was certainly interest in continuing collaboration between built environment and natural environment modellers based on feedback in the workshop. In the short term, what do we need to do to demonstrate the value of integrating data and models between these sectors? What cases of collaboration already exist? Flood modelling springs to mind, but comment if you know of others! Or, if none spring to mind, what would be a good place to start integrating these models? What local-scale projects would benefit from model integration?

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BGS and Cambridge collaborated on modelling heat flow from basements to the surrounding strata and groundwater


BGS and Dr Sauer Group worked on an integrated geospatial model at Farringdon Station



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I'm an undergraduate Civil Engineering student at the University of Bristol and I'm currently working as a research intern on the subject of Digital Twins for the next 7 weeks. I'm looking to focus the research around the interface between Green Infrastructure and Digital Twins (and the natural/ built environment), and assess where the current state of research/ knowledge is in this area. If there is anyone who knows of any interesting case studies or works in this area please get in contact/post in this thread! 

Also - Kirsten, did the report summarising the insights from the workshop spoken about above get posted anywhere?

Thank you!

Edited by Seren P
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Hi Seren, there has been a lot done in the Water utilities space that I know about. Working from the water catchment all the way down through the complex network of pumps and down to the treatment works is a perfect use case for digital twins. Anglian Water and Welsh Water are the two water utilities that I know the most about and could put you in touch with someone.

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On 15/06/2021 at 14:27, Seren P said:

Did the report summarising the insights from the workshop spoken about above get posted anywhere?

Hi, Seren! It's due out next week. Thanks for your interest! I agree with Henry, the space where this is most advanced is in water utilities, and also flood modelling. The Environment Agency, especially Karen Allford, would be a great resource for you on this.

Best wishes,

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Thank you Kirsten, flood modelling is also something I'm interested in, and an area where I have previously done some research. I'm in the very early stages of the internship so still defining the scope of the research project at the moment. Any tips/links are much appreciated!  

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Seren, I'm just going to drop a couple of links to projects that integrate environmental data with other sources of data, and were flagged to me while I was sourcing information and participants for the workshop:

  • Flood Damage Economic Model: https://www.eco-x.tech/portfolios/fdem/ 
  • HELIX: https://www.eco-x.tech/portfolios/helix/ (I believe this is what Anglia Water are using. There should be more information elsewhere about this project on the DT Hub site if you look through the case studies and other threads.)
  • The Environment Agency uses data from various sources to understand the impact of interventions on flood risk reduction (or at least reducing the risk of damage). They'll have published some of that information online in reports, but I don't have any links to hand.
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