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Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework

NEWS FROM ASSET MANAGEMENT BC: Wally Wells hands the baton to David Allen to continue the “sustainable service delivery” mission and build on the foundation that is in place for encouraging fully integrated asset management in British Columbia (July 2022)


“Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework” redefines the context for deciding how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented, and maintained in British Columbia. It raises questions about how communities would service urbanizing and redeveloping areas in future. The BC Framework points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are viewed as a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We know that having good succession plans in place is paramount to keeping the knowledge moving through the organization as key people leave. This is just one piece of the much greater puzzle,” stated Khalie Genereaux, Deputy Director of Finance with the City of Terrace, in an article written for the Asset Management BC Newsletter (July 2022)


“Small municipalities, such as Terrace, have limited resources to be able to take on something like Asset Management wholeheartedly and with focus. For most of us it is a corner of the desk project that we get to when we have time. We are now trying to change that, bit by bit. Although our level of human capital has not changed, our lens of how to view Asset Management has. The more we learn within the process and the results, it is no longer a matter of getting to it when we have time, but rather making the time to do it. Put simply, we cannot afford NOT to make this a priority,” stated Khalie Genereaux.

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COLLABORATION, CAPACITY, CULTURE AND COUNCIL: “Implementing asset management can happen at every level in local government. But to effectively achieve organization-wide Sustainable Service Delivery it must be led by the CAO and supported by Councils and Boards,” stated David Allen, Past- Chair (2012-2020) Asset Management BC Community-of-Practice


“Collaborating with external agencies opened our minds to thinking of AM practices in far broader terms, so that they might be applied in any community, regardless of size. We didn’t realize it, at the time, but it led to us eventually conclude that operationalizing AM would involve four separate, interconnected initiatives that would be the pathway for our journey toward Sustainable Service Delivery: They coalesced into what we locally refer to as The 4C’s – Collaboration, Capacity, Culture, and Council,” stated David Allen.

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AVOID THE PAIN, BE DELIBERATE, FUND THE PLAN: “Different local governments will always be at different points and different levels of maturity along the asset management continuum. This is why we focus on outcomes and do not prescribe what to do in BC,” stated Glen Brown, Chair of Asset Management BC


Glen Brown coined the term Sustainable Service Delivery in 2010. He synthesized three themes – financial accountability, infrastructure sustainability, service delivery – into an easy to remember phrase. “My inspiration came from Guy Felio. He said, ‘It’s all about the service’, because infrastructure/ assets are worthless IF they do not provide a service. That is what resonated with me. Also, Guy Felio said, for any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure asset by itself. That way-of-thinking applies to nature and the environment as well,” stated Glen Brown.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE DRAINAGE SERVICE DELIVERY: “The stream is the natural component of the municipal ‘drainage service’. The elephant in the room is the unfunded liability for urban stream stabilization and restoration. The ‘drainage service’ is the neglected service and the cost of neglect grows over time,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC (May 2022)


“Words matter. In the local government setting, what is a natural asset, really? It is a vague term that has become a buzz word that is not helpful. Why not use plain language that creates a mental picture? Stream corridor systems, parks, and conservation areas – these are land uses that constitute ‘natural assets’. From a municipal asset management perspective, however, the most important is stream systems because they provide a ‘package of ecological services’ – drainage, habitat, recreation, and enjoyment of property. Streams are a major focus for community involvement,” stated Kim Stephens.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT IS AN AWKWARD TERM: “We have managed assets for decades and understand what that is and what we are doing. Suddenly we took two very simple words, reversed them, and went from managing assets to asset management. The result? We confused everyone,” stated Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC


“An issue we have in communicating our message often seems to relate to the use and interpretation or misinterpretation of words or phrases. Too often we use technical terms within our own skill sets, not appreciating that others may not know what we are really saying. Asset Management, itself, is an intimidating term. The process of asset management or ‘managing assets’, is not new. The process, as defined today, just leads to better decisions across the entire organization for priority setting with limited budgets. However, we have succeeded in confusing everyone,” stated Wally Wells.

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ARE STREAMS WORTH THE SAME AS CONSTRUCTED ASSETS? – “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, supports local governments that intend to include stream systems in asset management calculations and the M&M – that is, maintenance and management – of drainage services. Through EAP, local governments have a guiding philosophy, methodology and metrics to make a financial case for stream systems,” stated Ray Fung, retired Director of Engineering with the District of West Vancouver, in an article published by Construction Business magazine (March 2022)


“Beyond local government, the provincial umbrella for EAP is ‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’. The driver for EAP is degradation of stream channels and streamside riparian setback zones. Over the last six years, the EAP methodology and metrics have been tested, refined and mainstreamed. The methodology has allowed consideration of opportunities taken or missed and risks avoided or incurred. On an ongoing basis, it allows for the question, how well are we doing? In short, EAP provides local government with a path forward to address loss of riparian integrity along streams,” stated Ray Fung.

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SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY FOR WATERSHED SYSTEMS: “The BC Framework points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability


“The BC Framework focuses on desired outcomes rather than prescribing specific methodologies, thereby allowing local governments to develop and implement an approach that can be measured and incremental, tailored to the individual needs and capacities of individual local governments. The focus on outcomes is consistent with the ‘enabling philosophy’ that defines the approach to regulation in BC. The Province recognizes that communities are in the best position to meet their own unique needs and local conditions,” stated Kim Stephens.

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SUSTAINABLE CREEKSHED SYSTEMS AND THE ASSET MANAGEMENT CONTINUUM: “We needed a way to illustrate diagrammatically what the journey by a local government to the eventual Sustainable Service Delivery destination would look like. This led us to the concept of a continuum. The relevance of this way of thinking is that different local governments will always be at different points and different levels of maturity along the asset management continuum. This is why we focus on outcomes and do not prescribe what to do in BC,” stated Glen Brown, Asset Management BC Chair, when he unveiled the continuum at the 2015 Annual Workshop organized by the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“Sustainable Service Delivery builds on the principles of Asset Management. It integrates land use, infrastructure servicing, financial and ecological planning. Emphasis is on the Levels-of-Service that assets provide, and ‘what level is affordable’ over time. Nature is an asset and provides ‘services’. The benefits and value of ‘design with nature’ solutions grow over time. The BC Framework is a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. It identifies natural services and the use of natural resources – and how they are part of / integrated into the overall services provided at a local government level,” stated Glen Brown.

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SUSTAINABLE FUNDING PLAN FOR INFRASTRUCTURE REPLACEMENT: “We are proud of what Oak Bay has been able to do in the past few years, but we have a challenging journey ahead of us. We like to celebrate successes but also be realistic about the work ahead of us that remains to be done,” stated Dan Horan, Director of Engineering & Public Works, District of Oak Bay in an article published in the Asset Management BC Newsletter (February 2022)


“It was game-changing when the provincial government said that local governments will need asset management plans in place to apply for grants. Oak Bay Council and staff saw the writing on the wall. They could already see evidence of the level-of-service challenge around older infrastructure. So, they took the first steps to ensure Oak Bay would qualify for infrastructure grant programs. Those steps, combined with savvy Councillors and senior staff knowing what Oak Bay needed to do, influenced Council’s strategic priorities process as well as updating of the Official Community Plan,” stated Dan Horan.

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