Integrating Sustainability into Infrastructure Projects

Earilier this month I had the pleasure of being invited to the FCM Sustainable Communities Conference in London, Ontario. Working with a great team of presenters I helped develop a one-day workshop for about 45 delegates on the topic of Sustainable Asset Management. This is a fairly new area of influence for FCM, and the workshop coincided with the announcement of a new branch of funding under the Green Municipal Fund called the Leadership in Asset Management Program, which is exciting news for municipalities looking to innovate in Asset Management.

My presentation developed the idea of Sustainable Infrastructure Decisions, using the Envision Infrastructure Rating System as a project guide, and I received some great feedback from delegates that had not heard of the rating system before and were keen to introduce it into their municipalities. During the presentation, I asked the delegates to consider how the infrastructure projects that their communities are doing every year could be done better, and specifically, to challenge their engineers to consider sustainability in all aspects of infrastructure projects.

The part of my presentation I enjoyed most was when I ran the delegates through a series of exercises in imagination, imagining the site, the infrastructure and the design and construction processes for a sewer lift station project I’m planning in Revelstoke. The objective was to open up the discussion to break out of the status quo solutions to infrastructure, and from the feedback, people found this discussion helpful.

In the presentation, I walked through a tour of the history of lift stations in Revelstoke over the past 50 years, showing the growth and added complexity to these facilities over time. Importantly, I stress that in many cases the added complexity was exactly what the City requested, in other cases, I’m guessing that consultants were responsible, bringing new ideas to the community, that may make operating the plant easier, but likely cost the community more money than previously acceptable designs did. On top of the complexity, I stressed the overt unattractiveness of many of the sewer lift stations built in the past 20 years, and that no one wants to live next to an ugly, stinky concrete building surrounded by barbed wire fencing.

Additionally, with the focus on the Envision Rating System, which most of the audience had no prior knowledge of, tying these imagination exercises to quantifiable sustainability metrics is reasonably easy; allowing decision-makers to run options through simple checklist like questions during the planning stage of projects.

Overall, I was really pleased with the whole day and have really enjoyed learning from and meeting some great leaders in sustainable thinking in Canada during the rest of the conference. If anyone has any questions on Envision or how we are using it in Revelstoke, let me know!

The complete slide deck for the day is here, my main section starts at slide 76!

Asset Management for Sustainability – FCM

[viewerjs /wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Asset_Management_for_Sustainability_Karen_Miller_EN.pdf]


Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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