One way to achieve sustainability is to work to extend the life of an agency’s existing assets, says Matt Sprague, industry strategy director – local government at Trimble, a technology company that offers a variety of integrated infrastructure solutions.
The solutions may enable improved decision-making by connecting the right information with the right administrators and staffers.
“Building with smarter technologies and materials makes a massive difference in the sustainability of those built assets, but the overwhelming majority of assets are already built, and you can’t just tear them down and start over,” Sprague tells Co-op Solutions.
Sprague believes road maintenance is an area where local governments can use proven practices to improve asset sustainability. This is because roads are typically the largest and most visible infrastructure investment a community makes. “If an agency’s roadway maintenance is reactive, it is likely that the road will not last as long as one that has been serviced with proactive maintenance,” he says. “Without the appropriate technology, it is just not possible to perform the advanced analysis necessary to determine the exact location and timing for every roadway maintenance project to achieve the optimal service life of the local road network while staying within budget.”
He notes that an advanced pavement management system can help evaluate the health of the roadway and create a proactive one-, two-, five-, or even 10-year pavement management plan to meet future maintenance needs. “Through this kind of plan, the community can allocate resources accordingly.”
Sprague says several benefits accrue through this setup: “This proactive approach helps extend the life of the road network (which improves sustainability), but also reduces the overall maintenance cost over the life of those roads. This means that your public works organization will have more funds available for work that brings value to the community. It creates a positive snowball effect.”
Sprague says the concept of predictive data analysis driving proactive maintenance extends past roadways to any category of assets. “Smart connected monitoring devices can be incorporated into your asset management system to help monitor the health of your assets so that maintenance can be performed before failure occurs. Monitors on pumps, for example, can report on the level of vibration that is healthy for those particular pumps and track the degradation over time and can predict when the pumps need to be replaced.”
Sprague cautions that this smart connected monitoring technology does not create more sustainable pumps. “It does, however, prevent the negative downstream effects that a failure could create and extends the life of tangential assets.”
Sprague urges government agencies and other infrastructure caretakers to make sustainability a guiding principle. “Technology evolves so quickly that you need a technology partner. That can come in the form of a vendor like Trimble but also in the form of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms that help guide organizations like local governments all the time. Either way, establishing a vision that creates a technology stack that helps you address the full lifecycle of assets will provide you insights to work toward more sustainable construction.”
Sprague says the following procurement and operational practices can help cities and counties become more sustainable:
- Build sustainability into your RFPs. Sustainability starts from the request for proposal (RFP). Work with vendors, architects and contractors who have a history of factoring sustainability into their decisions. “By requesting resilience of assets and sustainability, cities and counties, as well as other infrastructure asset owners, have the power to make a difference at the start of each project,” Sprague says.
- Enact procurement practices that drive emissions cuts through value chains. According to Sprague: “Cities and counties can lead efforts to achieve successes in the fields of construction and asset management to become true climate leaders. One way we can do this is by driving emission cuts through value chains—from planning stages to completion—and setting an example for others to follow.”
- Use modular and prefabricated construction. Modular and prefabricated methodologies directly correlate to smarter, more sustainable construction. Sprague explains: “Designing modular or prefabricated components allows for quicker build times and reduced rework and materials usage. When designing modular components, we can also consider the reusability of the components – will they be adaptable to future demands and changes? Building in bulk with prefab or modular methodologies, when combined with life cycle assessment (LCA) and sustainable materials, can also help to reduce green premiums for lower-carbon alternatives.”
The Trimble executive offers the following advice for cities and counties seeking a fast sustainability win: “For local governments, the biggest keys to success are including sustainability consideration in your RFPs and using more modular components in your projects. To drive your community toward a greener future, sustainability must be top of mind from the start and throughout the entire lifecycle of your asset.”
By Michael Keating, Senior Editor, American City & County
This article originally appeared in American City & County (September 27, 2023). Republished here with permission.