Creating safe, sustainable communities with asset management

By intouch * posted 13-06-2018 15:31

By Anna Wang,  Research and Communications, NATSPEC

Community growth is outpacing the resources available to manage and maintain infrastructure. To meet community demand and expectation, local governments need to manage assets to ensure associated services are delivered economically and sustainably.

It-runs-in-the-family-481936108_1258x838.jpegIt is estimated that 20% of a project’s total cost consists of the initial design and construction stages, while the remaining 80% is attributed to maintenance and operations. Lost production time, poor quality and need for subsequent replacement or maintenance, and legal issues resulting from defective assets significantly contribute to excess costs. For local governments, this is an undue cost to the community.

There are three key domains that contribute to the liveability of a community and manageability of that community’s assets: safety, sustainability and technology. In order to make sound investment, maintenance and disposal decisions, all life stages from design to disposal need to be coordinated. By using an asset management plan, life cycle costs are minimised and the economic benefits of all stages are maximised.

Improving safety

Councils have the responsibility to maintain their assets and provide safe and reliable facilities for the community. However, this is often inadequately achieved.

To reduce the risk of unexpected issues or failures, a proactive asset maintenance and management system can be used to provide structured attention to infrastructure assets and their conditions. The reliability of assets is improved, decreasing emergent costs over an asset’s life cycle. This minimises excessive time and costs for repairs, as well as litigation costs resulting from injury or death brought on by defective assets.
In 1997, the Penrith City Council community experienced a footpath incident every 3km of footpath. The year after the council implemented the AUS-SPEC asset management and maintenance system for local government, the distance of footpath before a footpath incident improved to 8km. A grinding program was introduced by the Council in 2006, and the distance of footpath per footpath incident has further improved since.

This proactive approach to maintaining the footpath improved safety for the community. The number of emergency repairs, legal costs, and liability claims were also reduced for the council.

In 2004, the City of Parramatta also implemented the AUS-SPEC asset management and maintenance system, and has seen a drastic decrease in legal costs from user injury or death.

Sustainable buildings for the future 

In 2015, natural disasters in Australia resulted in damages costs, including infrastructure damage and long-term social costs, of more than $9 billion. Damages costs from natural disasters are expected to double by 2030 and reach an average of $33 billion per year by 2050.

Much existing infrastructure was originally designed, built, and maintained on the assumption that future climate conditions would remain relatively unchanged. The risks and damage caused by this unexpected climate change are significant, and will remain that way if adequate response plans are not developed.

Asset management plans that support climate-resilient assets and asset upgrades can minimise this risk of damage. If a project’s social, economic, and environmental impact and needs are examined from conception, more sustainable practices may be applied to assets. The risk identification and planning aspects in an asset management plan provide a systematic way to recognise and analyse potential risk.

The building sector alone accounts for 30-40% of the nation’s energy use. A recent report from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council shows that if Australia’s built environment sector implements energy efficient initiatives, energy savings of almost $20 billion can be delivered by 2030. The effects of climate change may be withstood, reducing our ecological footprint and creating a strong foundation for future generations.

Technological advancements

Local councils need to use all resources at their disposal; technological advancements may be used to maximise the efficiency of asset management.

Data integration through internet-connected assets may inform management strategies by providing real-time performance data from equipment. This in turn provides maintenance records that enable predictive and trend analysis in order to improve the predictive maintenance capabilities of an asset management plan. Costly repairs and unplanned services interruption from defective assets are reduced.

This detailed data also allows for more meaningful and detailed financial allocation and reporting. From the allocation of costs at the beginning, to disposal or renewal, the true costs of owning and maintaining an asset may be analysed over the long-term to improve existing management systems. A thorough understanding of the time and resources required to manage assets can also be used to improve staffing levels, so councils are not assigning too few or too many people to projects.

Deficiencies in the planning and management process often result in a decision to cut capital costs without the appropriate knowledge of consequent impact on life cycle costs. This may lead to assets that are inefficient to maintain or operate, and difficulty in determining whether refurbishment or upgrade to an asset will deliver better value for money than continuing to maintain an asset that is no longer fit for purpose.

Using AUS-SPEC for asset management 

As new assets are constructed, the number of existing assets to be maintained increases.

For local governments, implementing a comprehensive asset management plan may prove difficult given the limited budget and personnel generally available. For this reason, specialised asset management systems, like the AUS-SPEC asset management and maintenance system for local government, are highly beneficial.

The AUS-SPEC system supports local councils in developing and executing an effective asset management and maintenance system. AUS-SPEC provides an economy of scale for councils and minimises the research and resources needed to develop an asset management plan from scratch. From design to disposal, the system assists councils in measuring the effect of decisions and actions across the entire life cycle.

Tools, technical specification templates, and a framework and processes to document requirements for asset management and life cycle activities are provided. The system supports technical and contractual consistency between councils, promoting nationwide uniformity, while allowing the flexibility to edit and add council-specific requirements where necessary.

While providing a sound basis for investment, maintenance, and disposal decisions, the AUS-SPEC system assists local governments in achieving a balance between the costs of planned and unplanned maintenance.

Life cycle costs are reduced while performance is maximised to ensure communities across Australia are provided with the best services possible.

AUS-SPEC is a joint venture between IPWEA and NATSPEC. It is maintained by NATSPEC, a national not-for-profit organisation, owned by Government and industry, whose objective is to improve the construction quality and productivity of the built environment through leadership of information. It is impartial and is not involved in advocacy or policy development, and is owned and endorsed by Government and industry organisations.

For more information about using AUS-SPEC for asset management, visit

This story first appeared in the April edition of inspire magazine. Read the original version here. 

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