Embedding Sustainability and Environmental Benefits into Asset Management Programs
Infrastructure focused organizations typically place a heavy emphasis on sustainability and environmental impacts during project planning and design, especially for large and strategically visible projects.
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Incorporating asset management programs and actively aligning them with sustainability goals can help ensure a more balanced focus across the entire life-cycle. Keeping a consistent sustainability focus through the procurement, construction, operations, maintenance, renewal, replacement strategies can help deliver even more impactful environmental benefits and outcomes. Leading organizations are ensuring that sustainability and asset management are strongly aligned - embedding common principles throughout the asset life-cycle such as: performance measurement, life-cycle analysis, risk assessment, project prioritization, and the Triple Bottom Line (TBL). These strategies are being successfully applied across all public infrastructure sectors including water, wastewater, power, rail, transit, airports, and public works.
Understanding Drivers and Aligning with Strategic Plan Goals
Successfully aligning asset management programs with sustainability must start from the top – by explicitly linking objectives and outcomes with specific strategic plan goals and communicating this consistently throughout all levels of the organization (see Figure 1). This involves developing highly visible metrics – starting with customer and public focused levels of service and cascading through more tactical key performance indicators and operational metrics. These can also be explicitly aligned with the TBL, presenting a balanced set of Social, Financial and Environmental Measures (see Figure 2).
Although sustainability and environmental benefits are important in all infrastructure sectors, it is important to understand the unique nuances and drivers to ensure that measures are both meaningful and impactful. Some examples of current themes include:
Water and Utilities – Energy capture from wastewater treatment process and moving towards “Net Zero” facilities, water reuse and direct potable reuse and a “one water” planning approach to optimize outcomes between water, wastewater, and stormwater investments.
Aviation – Facility focused energy efficiency, LEED building certification, on-site solar and alternative energy sources, and transition to alternative fuel and electric vehicle fleets.
Transportation and Public Works – Reduction in vehicle miles traveled and fuel consumption, equipment efficiency, and procurement of environmentally and socially friendly materials and suppliers.
Multi-Sector - Common drivers include climate change, resiliency, and water and energy conservation programs.
Figure 2 - Balanced set of performance metrics aligned to TBL (transportation agency example)
Incorporating into the Planning and Analysis Process
The heart of any asset management program is the detailed planning and analysis that goes into the development of formal Asset Management Plans (AMPs). Sustainability staff should be involved in this effort, which allows a unique opportunity to apply sustainability philosophies and techniques at all stages of the asset life-cycle (see Figure 3) including:
Development of level of service goals and targets that incorporate sustainability goals and deliver tangible environmental benefits and demonstrate improvement trends
Ensure that planning forecasts for growth and demand incorporate expected impacts on sustainability including energy and resource consumption and identify offset opportunities
Incorporate TBL factors into asset risk analysis including consequence of failure criteria including potential for environmental damage, negative social impacts, and regulatory compliance issues from asset failures
Within life-cycle management plans ensure that strategies focus on ongoing measurement of resource consumption, assessing environmental impacts from asset disposal, and monitoring for technical obsolescence as new environmentally efficient options emerge
Within capital funding strategies ensure that environmental benefits are monetized and considered for future investments and consider allocating dedicated funding sources to sustainability-driven projects including greenhouse gas (GHG) and energy reduction efforts.
The AMP also provides an opportunity to ensure that sustainability programs maintain a solid operational focus and that maintenance staff are integrated and aligned. They provide the best opportunity to drive improvements for existing assets including identifying opportunities for energy efficiencies, new technologies, and environmentally friendly maintenance supplies and equipment.
Figure 3 - Incorporating Sustainability Elements into an AMP
Sustainability and Asset Management in Action
Applying the philosophies above, WSP US Advisory Services (USAS) is embedding sustainability and environmental approaches within our ongoing asset management projects on several fronts including recent projects within the aviation, transportation, and infrastructure sectors.
WSP worked with a large US hub airport to align their asset management program goals to sustainability elements in their strategic plan – including developing key messaging for staff that linked sustainability with the social, financial, and environmental outcomes of maintenance and capital decisions.
WSP is working with a state-owned freight rail network to expand sustainability related performance metrics within their future AMP – incorporating additional measures related to Tons of Freight Transported and Number of Railcars to more formally assess the positive impact of freight growth on reduction of truck transport miles.
WSP is working with a large multi-modal multi-state agency with responsibility for rail/transit, bridges, tunnels, aviation, and ports, to complete a pilot AMP for a tunnel ventilation system – during facilitated discussions on future asset management improvement opportunities, the team identified the potential to reduce energy usage (and potentially extend asset life) by operating fans within automated mode instead of manual operations.
WSP is working with a large statewide multi-modal transportation agency providing strategic support for their multi-modal asset management program – part of this effort included incorporating efficiency and technical obsolescence criteria into their vehicle replacement program.