When you delve below the surface of asset management, it becomes clear how we can achieve the best long-term outcomes from infrastructure.

Today every resource counts and understanding the purpose and potential of our assets ensures they don’t just serve us today but continue to bring value sustainably for years to come.

In this article we review the panel discussion points and the critical role of asset management in enhancing the sustainability of infrastructure. 

Whole of life

Traditional sustainability efforts concentrate on the design and construction phase. How does an entire lifecycle approach of an asset meet the challenges of the future?

Value for People & Communities

Asset Management extends beyond physical maintenance to their purpose. How do we extract value for people and communities?  

The importance of benchmarking

How do we measure an asset’s environmental, social and economic impact? 


How well do you know your assets?

The immutable reality of life is that change is not only inevitable but essential.

This has become plainly apparent in asset management. Discussions of a whole of life approach to assets is impacting the definition of Asset Management, as we find more effective, cost-effective and sustainable methods of providing essential infrastructure.

For new infrastructure to be truly efficient, asset management must consider the whole-of-life of an asset and not view Design & Construction (D&C) as a separate process to Operations & Maintenance (O&M).

It's crucial to remember that assets are not just physical structures that need maintenance - they each have value and purpose. Every asset whether a road, a building, a water treatment plant, a telecommunications tower, or a transit system, is designed to fulfill specific needs - enhancing safety, housing and moving people, boosting efficiency, or driving profit. 

In harnessing the potential of these assets, we must understand the 'why' behind their purpose, the 'what' of their intended functionality, and the 'how' of their optimal operation. 


A natural alignment between asset management and sustainability

The how and why becomes even more important in the context of sustainability as it becomes more than just concrete, steel, or asphalt. It's about the people it impacts, the communities it serves, and the environment it protects.  There exists a natural alignment between asset management and sustainability and early consideration of the challenges vastly reduces the cost over the life of an asset. 

Opportunities for assets to achieve sustainable outcomes go beyond using smart materials and aim to foresee their entire operational trajectory.

Opportunities for assets to achieve sustainable outcomes go beyond using smart materials and aim to foresee their entire operational trajectory. This means assessing its environmental impact and the societal outcomes and usage over its entire lifecycle.  Asset management is evolving from a reactive role to a proactive forward-looking function – a framework or a system of systems that consider the entire life cycle of an asset.  
Each individual asset is part of a network of assets (think of a substation as part of an electrical network) which is part of a system of infrastructure assets within a community or city. 

We build infrastructure to last a long time, so we need systems that are flexible, and resilient in ways that maintain functionality. Imagine a bridge that not only stands firm in the face of a storm but is also equipped with materials that age gracefully and have a low carbon and environmental footprint. Think about urban transport networks that adjust to population shifts, technological advancements, and even economic cycles. 

Whole of life asset management thinking gives asset owners and operators the ability to anticipate, prepare for and adapt to a constantly evolving environment. By embedding whole of life thinking into the core of asset management we maximise the asset outcomes, while ensuring such assets are equipped to serve our communities in an era of change.


Building social value in a changing landscape

Exploring the topic with my panellists, it was clear that asset management goes beyond the management of physical elements. The environmental impact of infrastructure, such as embodied carbon, and the energy and water use are how we tend to measure sustainable outcomes. 

Integrating social value into infrastructure asset management is critical. More and more stakeholders are recognising the potentially transformative impact of embedding social value in their projects. 

Infrastructure forms the backbone of communities. Managing these assets carries the responsibility to ensure not only their functionality and efficiency but also their positive impact on the lives they touch. Focusing on social value ensures projects are inclusive and address the specific needs of local communities, transforming infrastructure from mere structures into enablers of community growth and development. Integrating social value in infrastructure projects brings substantial economic benefits. It leads to job creation, stimulates local economies, and promotes workforce equality, driving economic growth.

Involving stakeholders in decisions early provides opportunity to increase the value outcomes for communities and users and can provide better connection across the system of assets. There is a shift in perception of social value from a ‘nice to have’ to a critical part of any asset and highlights the need to put people at the centre rather than profit or perfection.

Integrating social value in infrastructure asset management is a fundamental shift in development and growth approaches. It’s about building infrastructure that not only stands the test of time but also enriches the lives it impacts. 

For companies in this field, committing to social value is essential for ensuring projects are not just traditionally successful but also in terms of the impact they can have on local people, local communities and local economies.


The importance of benchmarking

Central to evolving sustainable asset management is adopting the right measurement. A key tool available to asset managers, as well as planners, designers and constructors is the Infrastructure Sustainability Council’s Infrastructure Sustainability rating scheme (IS rating). 

This isn't merely a benchmarking tool; it's a transformative framework that provides independent verification of an infrastructure project or asset’s environmental, social and economic impact.

Applying a rating focuses attention on the outcomes that matter, ensuring sustainability is embedded in our asset management decisions to achieve the purpose and value of the infrastructure. 

In addition to leveraging tools like the IS rating scheme, there is also a critical need to evaluate the fiscal savings, economic benefits, and well-being impacts that arise from decisions around employment, training, and supply chain spend. It involves an assessment of how investment in human capital and local supply chains can yield significant financial and social returns. By doing so, asset managers and decision-makers can ensure that their choices not only align with sustainability metrics but also contribute positively to economic growth, workforce development, and community well-being.

Alex moderating a panel at the Infrastructure Sustainability Council event in 2023



The global goal of achieving net-zero emissions is not merely an environmental imperative but an economic and societal one. We believe asset management is key to this ambition, where it can serve as the vehicle driving sustainable and inclusive infrastructure. 

For all involved, from the front-end planning of infrastructure to the asset managers and maintainers - Are we moving fast enough to shift our thinking?  
We need to move from being task-oriented and locked-in with our specifications, to being outcome focused and aligned with the value creation for communities and customers.

By challenging the ‘why’ behind our approach, using tools such as the IS rating scheme, and by understanding how to leverage asset management's capabilities, we can shape a future where infrastructure supports growth and does so sustainably.


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