Integrating major projects for a sustainable Victoria

The urban environment impacts on the life of residents and contributes to liveability.

Sustainable infrastructure is not only the environmental impact of major projects; it is also the usability and the cost to build and maintain the infrastructure for the life of the asset.

A sustainable world requires better business in order to ensure the lifecycle costs and the end-users are considered at the outset of the project. As the tagline says, “better business, better world”.

Better business involves a number of aspects: transparent ethics, clear business objectives, clear responsibilities and more informed decision-making. Clear business objectives make it possible to have a targeted approach across all stakeholders. They allow for more decisive action based on clear corporate targets. Business objectives can be used to drive the culture of the team.

As Victoria has more Big Build projects being integrated into the existing infrastructure, it is critical that the objectives of each of the stakeholders are clear and aligned. When building these complex projects, it’s crucial we work together as an industry to get the best outcome for Victorian residents.

Collaborative objectives allow for better integration and cohesive working between the different stakeholders. There is often a competing set of values between the design and construct (D&C) scope and the operate and maintain (O&M) scope.

The D&C stakeholders are incentivised to minimise capital expenditure in order to hit competitive budgets, which can lead to a high operational expenditure and high maintenance frequency.

Conversely, the O&M stakeholders’ interest is to optimise the use of the asset and minimise operational expenditure in order to give Victorians the best value for money service, which can add to construction cost. Instinctively D&C and O&M stakeholders have competing objectives.

In order to get the optimal life cycle cost of an asset, the balance of capital against operational expenditure needs to be set by the client in the contractual objectives. Sustainable lifecycle management starts at design and is driven by the contractual objectives from the client.

Every component on a product has a lifecycle; infantile failures become steady state performance, which lead to aged failures. This evolution is commonly referred to as the bathtub curve. Integration of new infrastructure into existing systems can cause disruption in the initial stages as the infantile failures of the new scope reduce the overall system performance.

Endurance testing can be used to drive down the number of failures; however, accountability of the D&C stakeholder is required otherwise the O&M stakeholder holds full accountability for the integration. Collaborative business objectives allow the two parties to work together for an overall improved outcome.

Collaborative objectives are needed to ensure Through Life Engineering is considered at the design stage; as with Safety in Design, it is more cost effective to include controls prior to construction. The performance of infrastructure assets is typically managed “On the Average” where the average life of a component set is used with a risk factor added to address potential variance.

A sustainable business will use asset condition data of individual components to manage the system lifecycle “On the Asset”. This minimises the operational risk to the business and reduces waste of resources. If the objective for this sustainable approach is not captured early, the inclusion of condition monitoring systems will not be incorporated into the design.

Monitoring systems are evolving and data collection systems are becoming more affordable. The tools used to analyse the data, visualise the data and generate useful information are also becoming more accessible. Return on investment of these systems, depending on the duration of the contract, is becoming more reasonable. However, businesses will only invest if there is a legal, contractual or financial incentive. Some projects can be funded through opportunity costs; some projects need the contractual nudge. A clear requirement in the contract will allow for both the D&C and O&M teams to agree on what level of data management is involved.

With accurate data on the performance of each component, the ideal time to maintain or repair parts of the system can be identified. Mature asset management based on condition data will establish the degradation rate of the component and indicate any risk or opportunity for the business. By working together with the O&M team, the D&C team can identify systemic improvements from accurate performance analysis. This allows for the design to develop over time so that we can evolve as an industry to have better performing assets and provide a better environment for Victorians.

With better integration comes better performance and a better Victoria. Complex systems need clear objectives and clear roles in order to integrate new infrastructure with minimal impact. Collaboration through the lifecycle will allow for a more sustainable approach to managing assets to provide sustainable infrastructure for sustainable cities.

Rachael Brown

Author Rachael Brown

More posts by Rachael Brown

Leave a Reply