Techweek panel: The infrastructure technology highway

Nextspace's CEO and founder joins Steve Hawkins from Fletcher and Watercare’s Richard McIntosh to discuss the evolution of digital twin technology and its application to critical infrastructure.
Written by
Nextspace team
Published on
May 1, 2022
Fletcher Construction digital twin

What does it really take to make new infrastructure technology real? Steve Hawkins from Fletcher, Watercare’s Richard McIntosh and Mark Thomas of Nextspace discuss the evolution of digital twin technology and its application to critical infrastructure. They explore how innovation is sparked, progressed and adopted, where the pitfalls and hurdles to widespread adoption lie, and how digital twins can help achieve more habitable, sustainable infrastructure projects.

The panel was moderated by Assoc. Prof. Maibritt Pedersen Zari, and introduced by Professor Charles Walker.

Watch right to the end to catch a great Q & A session after the panel. We ran short on time to get all the questions answered, so asked those afterward and have included them below the video.


When do you see this technology scaling? I believe the biggest barrier is cost. We are in the process of implementing a digital twin from our construction BIM model, but the biggest barrier for the business wide roll-out is cost. What do you think are the biggest 'use cases'?

Answer – Mark Thomas

Actually we don’t see scale necessarily as a large cost concern but there are a number of possible areas of concern.

Storage and processing power is cloud based and of course very scalable.

Localised rendering or visualisation scaling is handled through LOD systems.

The cost of visualization of a digital twin for many people can be almost nil but it depends on the vendor you are working with.

We would encourage you to come talk to us about how to cost effectively scale your digital twin as we suspect there may be many aspects to consider in answering such a question.

Simplest use case is data handover and asset management with quick and clear access to any and all data related to the management and optimal use of an asset. But there are many use cases and ROI estimates that can be found on the web.

Answer – Steve Hawkins

I don’t believe it costs extra!  Indeed I think it saves cost. Just need to get the appropriate sharing of the cost. Certainly if the client is paying for the digital twin, it will save over the design, construction, operation, maintenance and deconstruction phases. Fletcher believe it is worth doing even if only for the design and construction phases.  

Answer – Richard McIntosh

I agree with Steve – I think we need to view this from a value rather than a cost lens. There is a huge value potential for digital twins during design, delivery and operation/maintenance which will far outstrip the costs we invest in the model build.



With respect to technology and the 3 Waters reforms, are there opportunities for standardisation and cost saving, O&M optimisation etc?

Answer – Richard McIntosh

The short answer is yes. It becomes easier to collaborate and the challenges that the new entities will face will be similar in scale and complexity. I think the standardization and optimization is an absolute must to deliver value to communities and customers across New Zealand.

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