The Dassault Systèmes View

Compass magazine Editorial Board

9 February 2022

2 min read

Cities, and the infrastructure within them, are the epicenter of a sustainable future for all people.

Although cities occupy a small percentage of the Earth’s surface, they consume disproportionate amounts of natural resources and generate intense concentrations of pollution – trends that will only intensify as they grow. And they are growing: today, about half of the world’s population lives in cities; by 2050, 70% will.

Increased density raises the challenges of building, operating and maintaining cities sustainably. From crumbling roads and bridges to water shortages, overcrowding and air pollution, cities have many inter-related challenges; addressing one can aggravate others. Providing more housing, for example, also generates more waste, energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions.

To balance such competing priorities, cities need a holistic view of their built environments so that planners and policy makers can understand their challenges, and a way to experiment with multiple options to strike an ideal balance.

Finding and maintaining that balance is central to achieving the quality of life that city leaders and their citizens want, while protecting the futures of future generations, and Dassault Systèmes is dedicated to helping.

In 2021, consistent with our corporate purpose of helping people “imagine sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing product, nature and life,” we committed to mitigate climate change and reduce CO2 emissions, both as a company and in support of our customers – including many of the world’s cities. We are uniquely qualified to do this because cities are “systems of systems,” and modeling, analyzing, understanding and operating such systems harmoniously is one of our core capabilities. After all, we’ve spent four decades helping manufacturers achieve balance in complex systems of systems ranging from airplanes and automobiles to digital networks and supply chains. What works for these complex systems works for cities as well.

In any complex undertaking, the ability to experiment is central to success. Experimenting with physical resources is wasteful, expensive and time-consuming; unanticipated failures – especially in population-dense cities – can be catastrophic. Which is why our software enables virtual experimentation.

In a computer, you can experiment with thousands of approaches to a challenge in days, without consuming any physical resources except the electricity needed to run the computers or exposing anyone to unanticipated negative consequences. Conducted in a scientifically accurate computer model we call a virtual twin experience, these experiments allow city planners and leaders to accurately experience the impacts of their ideas on specific city environments. By helping developers and city leaders understand the tradeoffs involved, virtual twins enable low-cost, no-risk learning experiences, guiding decision-makers toward the best possible solutions.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, eastern France – a region known as Grand Est – was among the first areas to be hard hit. A hospital in the region, working with public and private partners,  used virtual twins to measure the potential impacts of national and local decisions on citizens. Our 3DEXPERIENCE platform enabled planners to create, run and evaluate their experiments collaboratively, involving both public and private stakeholders. By creating and studying digital content and models, authorities could make the right decisions for specific groups of citizens, rather than trying to create a one-size-fits-all approach that actually fits no one.

In the construction industry that builds and maintains our cities, meanwhile, companies are using virtual twin experience not only to plan more energy-efficient structures, but to build them from more sustainable materials using more sustainable techniques. By using virtual twins to apply manufacturing techniques to construction, for example, developers can design, test, optimize and build modular housing, offices and commercial units in factories, reducing waste and accelerating onsite assembly. Modular construction also reduces material use, enables recycling, lessens transportation emissions, simplifies and coordinates deliveries, and allows for quick disassembly when buildings need to be moved or reconfigured.

In short, virtual twins that are created, analyzed, optimized and maintained on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform enable a complete transformation of the construction industry and its role in creating and evolving our cities as sustainable systems of systems. As net-zero construction moves from commitment into practice, virtual twin experience holds the key to success for cities, citizens and the planet.  


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