Environment, Social, Economic, Governance: the four pillars that make up the quadruple bottom line of sustainability. This can be translated to the management of impacts on, and the enhancement of:
- Environment: flora, fauna, air, water, land
- Social: community, stakeholders, heritage, workforce, supply chain
- Economic: financial sustainability, budgets, materials’ lifecycles, maintenance cycles
- Governance: asset maturity, risk and opportunity management, climate change adaptation, resilience
Another way of defining sustainability in asset management is “good business practice”. In many ways, several of the aspects listed above are incorporated under different guises within a well-managed asset. The pathway from a well-managed asset to a sustainably managed asset is to take a holistic approach over the forecasted useful life. Strategic management plans mostly cover the next 5, 10, or at a maximum 15 years, of budgetary spending for the asset.
A holistic approach over the forecasted useful life broadens the scope of opportunities and initiative for strategic spending to address longer term risks, from climate change for example. These may require funds to be set aside annually to manage future required retrofits and upgrades to manage those identified risks. In addition to better risk and opportunities management, a quadruple bottom line integrated system will ensure that service provision can be maintained and efficiently improved. In some cases, this can be done through improved stakeholder and community engagement.
At a practical level, understanding your asphalt, concrete and other material uses for periodic renewal programs would allow planning for more robust materials to lower maintenance requirements, improve wear and tear/vehicle emissions for road users and noise levels for the nearby community.
Other initiatives such as optimising traffic signals and installing LED street lights with smart controls/dimming can significantly reduce the energy requirements across the network, which in turn reduces the carbon footprint, maintenance requirements/luminaire replacements.
Sustainability is no longer an ‘extra’
Sustainability has been viewed as an add-on or additional requirement to existing asset management systems. However, where the four pillars of sustainability are integrated into management systems, it is no longer an “extra”, but an essential.
The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) is a member-based not-for-profit industry council. ISCA advances sustainability outcomes in infrastructure through the development and facilitation of the Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating scheme. The IS rating scheme is an industry-compiled sustainability performance rating scheme evaluating all infrastructure asset classes beyond regulatory standards.
The IS rating scheme for Operations is the first scheme in the world to measure the sustainability performance of infrastructure operations and maintenance. This framework facilitates the integration of sustainability into existing systems and assists in the development of a pathway to continuous improvement.
The scheme has been used by assets such as Auckland Airport, Queensland Urban Utilities’ Beaudesert Sewerage Treatment Plant and the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s Yarra Park Water Recycling Facility. Several other assets and networks that have IS Operations ratings underway include: Gold Coast Light Rail, Main Roads WA Gascoyne Region roads maintenance contract, Roads and Maritime Services Sydney South Zone roads maintenance contract, and Adelaide Airport. These assets use the rating scheme to benchmark sustainability performance, integrate sustainability into their management systems and improve their risk and opportunity management.
Antony Sprigg will be speaking on ‘Creating a role for ‘sustainability’ to inform & evaluate road maintenance & operations contracts’ at the Road Engineering & Maintenance conference, taking place in Sydney this May. Register soon to secure early bird rates!