Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield harnesses the power of technology to build better places

14 May 2024

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield harnesses the power of technology to build better places

14 May 2024

With an annual 52 million visits, Westfield Stratford City, operated by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), stands as one of the largest retail destinations in the UK. As a visionary developer and operator of sustainability-driven assets, URW strives to find innovative solutions that centre on environmentally responsible practices. With a complex heating and cooling network and ambitious energy reductions targets, URW promptly sought a digital-based solution to future proof the asset. The resulting Digital Twin has not only outperformed expectations in energy and cost reductions, but also established itself as a proactive solution to operational risk management.

Key Facts

  • The Digital Twin has saved 35.62% of URW’s operational energy consumption
  • £33,000 has been invested into the Digital Twin project with pay back achieved within 11 months of the project going live

The Situation

URW aims to ‘reinvent being together’ through projects that transform urban spaces to meet industry-leading sustainability benchmarks. Their sustainability strategy, Better Places, lays out their plan to make positive environmental, social and economic impact on the cities and communities where URW operates. This includes a roadmap to achieve net zero targets on Scopes 1 & 2 by 2030 and Scope 3 by 2050, as well as joining the Net Zero Initiative (NZI).

Westfield Stratford City, a key asset in URW’s portfolio, is home to over 300 leading UK and international brands. The facility is connected to a complex HVAC system, which has become increasingly difficult to manage due to frequent changes to tenant requirements. In response, URW’s Facilities Management team at Westfield Stratford City adopted a virtual replica of the retail complex, allowing them to monitor and optimise the building’s energy usage in real time.


In October 2020, URW appointed an external vendor to begin work on developing a Digital Twin of the current HVAC system connected to Westfield Stratford City. The Digital Twin is a virtual copy of Westford Stratford City that simulates, tests, and predicts future processes, providing a representation of the physical environment and of the building’s entire operations in the ‘cloud’. Digital Twins empowers facility managers to optimise costs, enhance energy savings, and improve occupant comfort and well-being. 

Virtual drawings of Westfield Stratford City and its HVAC systems were used to run season-based simulations in the early stages of the Digital Twin’s design process. This has enabled URW to anticipate system performance and effectively manage the supply of heating and cooling to retailers who might be impacted by changes in size of individual units. Consequently, the Digital Twin automatically detects and addresses hydraulic design, optimising the HVAC system to minimise energy consumption. 

As a result of building and running the Digital Twin at Westfield Stratford City the following opportunities have been identified and actioned to reduce energy use, lower pumping speeds and improve overall running costs: 

  • The conversion of final connections from constant to variable flow. 
  • The conversion of 3-way valves on preheating coil to passive diverting or throttle circuit. 
  • The conversion of 3-way valves on cooling and heating coils to 2-way valve. 
  • Installation of a thermostatic controlled bypass on preheating coils for frost protection. 
  • Hydraulic balancing of the entire system.
  • Due to the above in certain cases secondary pumps became oversized so were replaced with smaller versions to reduce running costs. 

In addition to the development of the Digital Twin, an audit of every tenant is being conducted by an external consultant to ensure compliance with URW’s fit out guides, check installation standards and understand tenant requirements. This process is ongoing, and all data will be fed into the Digital Twin and results reported back to the tenants.

To ensure all tenants are informed about the benefits of the Digital Twin, an ongoing engagement programme has been established featuring 1:1 quarterly meetings with the Facilities Management team and asset based communications. 


The Digital Twin initially projected a potential 35% energy savings through the implementation of identified retrofit and optimisation opportunities. One year post-completion, the reported energy savings stand at 35.62%, with a remarkable Return on Investment (ROI) realised in under 11 months, rendering the project a success.

One of the main benefits of the Digital Twin lies in its provision of live feedback data, allowing the Facilities Management team to immediately resolve any upcoming issues. The Digital Twin is also able to accurately forecast the outcomes of implementing asset updates, enabling URW to select a data-driven option prior to investment. URW will continue to roll the project out across the whole site with a long-term contract in place with the external vendor that developed the Digital Twin. 

Building upon the project’s success, URW developed detailed designs of weather compensation systems to be fed into the Digital Twin. The control system changes flow set points against outside air temperatures. This enables URW to control the heating of water based on external temperatures and has resulted in a further 17% reduction in heating across the centre. 


  • URW invested £33,000 into the Digital Twin project with pay back achieved within 11 months of the project going live. 

Challenges and Achievements

The complex structure of Westfield Stratford City has presented challenges for the Facilities Management team to accurately plan for sustainable long-term changes. URW benefitted from partnering with an external organisation to run pilots of the Digital Twin across specific areas of Westfield Stratford City. They gained fresh perspective of the challenges at hand and were able to build up a detailed understanding of the asset in a manageable and effective way. By investing in the Digital Twin, URW can address issues in a timely manner with little resource and rely on solutions that will remain relevant in the long-term.


Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is a premier global developer and operator of Flagship Destinations, with a portfolio valued at €60.4 Bn as at 30th June 2020, of which 86% in retail, 7% in offices, 5% in convention & exhibition venues and 2% in services. Currently, the Group owns and operates 89 shopping centres, including 55 Flagships in the most dynamic cities in Europe and the United States.   


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