At the recent Canadian Network of Asset Managers Conference in Windsor, Ontario, GIO had the pleasure of presenting, in partnership with York Region, on Green Infrastructure in Municipal Asset Management Planning. Over the course of the conference we met and interacted with asset managers from across the continent, discussing emerging trends in asset management and how green infrastructure can fit into the framework. We have distilled our experience down to five key takeaways:
- Compared to grey municipal infrastructure assets, the value of green infrastructure assets changes in a fundamentally different way. This can be seen as a barrier to integration. Unlike grey infrastructure assets, which depreciate over time, green infrastructure assets appreciate. A municipal infrastructure asset that appreciates is a foreign concept to most finance and asset managers. While this does not necessarily directly impact asset management planning, it is definitely a perceived barrier potentially blocking the integration of green infrastructure in asset management planning
- Asset management planning is still a relatively new process for most infrastructure assets. Green infrastructure has some key differences from other assets, but many of the challenges it presents are not unique. All municipal departments are working to implement strong asset management planning and they are all encountering many similar challenges and opportunities. Lessons learned in other sectors will help provide a way forward for implementing green infrastructure asset management.
- Of all green infrastructure assets, urban forest assets tend to be at the forefront of integration discussions. Multiple municipalities presented how they are collecting tree inventories and condition assessments that can be integrated into the asset management process. That said, most asset managers have not yet turned their mind to green infrastructure assets.
- Green infrastructure asset valuation is still a challenge and it is where green infrastructure lags behind its grey infrastructure counterparts. To help move towards a consensus on the appropriate approach to valuation, we need a forum for thought leaders to discuss and debate the best approach to valuation of green infrastructure assets.
- The Province of Ontario has directed municipalities to use a life-cycle assessment approach to realize the value of infrastructure assets in order to achieve multiple municipal objectives. If all infrastructure decisions are evaluated through this lens, there is a significant potential to integrate green infrastructure into various infrastructure areas due to its lifecycle cost savings and extensive co-benefits.