While asset management is often thought to be focused narrowly on efficient maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and replacement of assets, asset management is also about doing so with consideration of social and environmental, as well as financial, benefits and costs.

By Priscilla Bloomfield, Lindsay Ritter, and John Fortin, CH2M HILL

This post is one of an ongoing series of Access Water posts about asset management best practices. Read the first few.

McGraw-Hill Construction’s recently released study of asset management practices of asset management practices of US and Canadian water utilities, a CH2MHILL sponsored research project, examined the extent to which water utilities have adopted 14 leading asset management practices, and which of these practices are of most value to implementers. One interesting finding was that only thirty nine percent of US and Canadian utilities consider environmental and social costs – the triple bottom line (TBL) - when making investment decisions. This is despite the fact that consideration of both is a key element of the asset management paradigm, especially among advanced adopters of asset management in North America, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Consideration of the TBL is really about embracing sustainability. While asset management is often thought to be focused narrowly on efficient maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and replacement of assets, asset management is also about doing so with consideration of social and environmental, as well as financial, benefits and costs. Life cycle cost minimization considers energy use, air quality impacts, impacts on the natural environmental and other “externalities” such as traffic impacts associated with asset construction. So, asset management and sustainability principles are completely aligned and support one another.

Utilities that incorporate the TBL in asset management decisions often incorporate TBL very formally in business cases. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is one such utility. Early in the development of its asset management program, SPU worked with a local consultant to develop a “triple bottom line guidebook” that serves as training guide in basic and advanced life cycle modeling techniques for SPU staff who prepare business cases. The TBL Guidebook has become the foundation of the methodologies that SPU requires of nearly all business cases. Two examples of SPU business cases (Rock Creek Fishway Project Development Plan 2 and Knickerbocker Floodplain Reconnection Project) demonstrate how impacts on habitat and wildlife can be considered in investment decisions and also impact final decisions.

CH2M HILL emphasizes to our clients the importance of considering sustainability in the development and execution of asset management programs. The attached paper, which we wrote, describes the alignment between asset management and sustainability. We and our company believe that future projected worldwide water shortages, impending impacts of climate change and more, create an urgency to consider the TBL in asset investment decisions (both operating and capital investments). Note that asset management, integrated with sustainability principles, is not just for utilities. CH2M HILL is finding that mining clients, entire cities, major regional development organizations and other entities are asking for expertise in both. These entities have recognized the alignment and benefits of integrating asset management and sustainability into their everyday business decisions.

To find out more about how we can support your organization to integrate asset management and sustainability contact us!

Priscilla Bloomfield is a Senior Project Manager in CH2M HILL’s Management and Operations Service Team consulting group. Her experience is in strategic and master planning, asset management, and benchmarking.

Lindsay Ritter is an experienced consultant focused on sustainability program development, planning, and mobilization. As the Sustainability Director for CH2M HILL’s operations division, Ms. Ritter catalogs best practices, develops stakeholder awareness, and integrates sustainable solutions into our delivery of operations services at 200-plus client facilities across North America. She developed and leads the company’s O&M sustainability program that empowers CH2M HILL employees to enhance the environment and generally improve the operational efficiency of their facilities. She also serves on CH2M HILL’s Sustainability Leadership Board, a cross-discipline group chartered with building sustainable solutions and delivering complex sustainability projects.

John Fortin is an asset management practitioner with more than 25 years of facilities lifecycle experience including design, construction and O&M. He has developed and implemented effective change management programs required to implement an asset management culture. Mr. Fortin is nationally recognized for his leadership in strategy development and implementation and change management approaches. He uses innovative techniques to provide sustainable change to client’s asset management improvement programs.