How do we protect a large city with many high-rise buildings against emergencies?

The urban environment is becoming increasingly crowded, and the Netherlands is even one of the most urbanised countries in the world. With a growing number of high-rise buildings, the chances and impact of emergency situations are increasing. In the event of flooding, fire or terrorist threats, it must be possible to evacuate buildings quickly. Today, emergency services still work with simple tools, such as 2D plans. At the same time, there are many digital possibilities, such as crowd management technology or sensors.

DE-RISC is working on the transition to (near) real-time information on buildings and their users in 3D maps, which can help to increase the safety of these buildings and make evacuations more successful, and safer. With this project, the universities and companies want to form a vanguard in the field of digital twins.

Digital twin

The first case for which such a new model will be developed is the Erasmus MC building, which is located in the centre of Rotterdam. “It is a large and complex building, which makes it an interesting case,” says Monique Arkesteijn, Associate Professor of Architecture at TU Delft and project leader of DE-RISC.

The aim of DE-RISC is not only to map a single building and its users in 3D, but also to set up a social infrastructure. Within that infrastructure, owners of data and stakeholders explore together how data can be produced and used in a sustainable way when it is needed. Arkesteijn says: “We want to work with stakeholders to create a system whereby data developed and stored in regular property management processes, for example through facility and maintenance services, can be meaningfully and sustainably linked to the digital twin of that particular building, so that you always have an up-to-date 3D version. And you can also see where people are.” At the moment, 3D models are only available for ten percent of the buildings in Rotterdam. “We want to develop something that works for every building, a system that automatically keeps track of changes, so that the fire brigade can quickly see: there are still people inside. Or: this or that is a vulnerable spot.”

Large consortium

The models are not only useful for fire. “What we develop can eventually serve in other disasters, or even in maintenance processes or preservation processes of large buildings.” The model being created for the Erasmus MC building is designed to be applied to several buildings in the city, and other large cities. The special feature of the project is its convergence: the combining of knowledge from different academic institutions. TU Delft will be working on the artificial intelligence required, while Erasmus University Rotterdam will be working on social innovation and the basis for data linking and sharing. Cooperation with partners outside the university is also important. The Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region and the city of Rotterdam are cooperating in DE-RISC, as are insurers and safety consultants, and last but not least companies such as Royal HaskoningDHV, Hertek, Unica and City Analytics. Arkesteijn: “We are working with many parties in this consortium. There is a lot of interest in this project in the city, because many people see that this is really necessary. Now, and also with a view to the future.”

We are initially developing a digital infrastructure for fire safety, but eventually it can also serve for other disasters, and even for maintenance or preservation processes

Monique Arkesteijn

TU Delft

Assistant Professor Real Estate Management


In addition to converting 2D to 3D models, virtual reality will be used to test how people actually flee in an emergency. “This way, we can also investigate how to make interventions, or improve existing ones.”

Scalability and sustainability are the starting points. “We want to create an ecosystem that works across the Netherlands. It has to be scalable from this one building, to all buildings. We are now thinking not in individual solutions, but more broadly: how do we collect information, how do we bring it together, how do we connect it to the right parties?”


This project gives an impression of the public-private partnerships that will be developed for Resilient Delta. Currently this project and the consortium is still under construction. Activities have yet to start. Interested in joining the consortium? Please reach out to the business developers of Resilient Delta.

Any questions?

Reach out to one of our business developers.

Michelle Damen

Innovations Manager