Thinking long term means that we need to think well beyond the scheduled maintenance and servicing tasks. We need to think beyond reactive maintenance. We need to think beyond 5 years or even 10 years, and realise that to ensure properties are managed in a sustainable way, we need to think 30 years out. We also need to think beyond the initial construction process for new buildings and start this thinking at the business case and design phases of capital works processes. To think in this way needs to be at an organisational level and be embedded so that as key people come and go, the process endures and ensures the buildings are cared for in a way that could make them last forever. Whether government or commercial portfolios, as times get tough economically, financially or politically, one of the first things to go is often the planning budgets as shorter term 'cost savings' can be achieved through simply turning to a reactive maintenance approach. Whether income producing operational buildings or general community facilities such as Councils, both groups of owners and managers should benefit from long term thinking – the problem is how to think and plan long term in a consistent way between industries.
This is where the NAMS Group in New Zealand and IPWEA in Australia stepped in and provided this guidance to organisations. Thinking and planning long term is a challenging process – in the mid 1990’s, the first guidance was published mainly for Councils. This was triggered by Councils, in response to legislation completing some of the early asset management plans and projecting future renewals that were so high that it created shock waves in the industry. Asset management planning processes were then introduced to the industry and provided a consistent and proven way to plan long term where there are many unknowns. Where it took a few years, the original projections were usually proven to be too high. As a result, long term funding of renewal works was corrected, which proved a real tangible return on investing in a more structured planning process.
In 2002 a new edition of the International Infrastructure Management Manual (IIMM) was published by the NAMS Group in New Zealand and IPWEA. Where earlier versions focused on roads, sewerage, water and stormwater, following on from the 1990’s, this version now included property assets. Where it had been updated to include great content for property asset managers, it was still a manual used by infrastructure asset managers and as property had always been seen as the ‘poor second cousin’, only a few organisations used the principles for property. It took four more years to produce the property specific manual, which was finally published in 2006 – good things take time. And as found over the past 8 years, good things stand the test of time. Some may say, although in somewhat of a biased way, it was written ahead of it’s time and is only now being appreciated as organisations are starting to look longer term and think strategically about their property portfolios.
The intentions of the NAMS Property steering group is still very much the same today as it was 8 years ago:
- Have property on the ’strategic agenda’ of organisations
- Recognition that property provides real long term value to organisations rather than being seen as a cost centre
- Further elevate the knowledge and skills property asset managers to help them think long term
- Moving from a reactive to planned maintenance approach to looking after buildings
- First understand the services provided and use of the building, then understand the assets
- Buildings can last forever if they are needed forever and if the right policies and processes are applied
In 2006, the New Zealand’s Auditor General, Kevin O’Brady wrote the following about the NAMS Property manual - "I believe the application of the asset management planning process within this guideline will considerably enhance the long term prudent management of property assets within Local Government. Its asset management principles will also add value to other entities involved in the public sector and which utilise special purpose property assets. The principles also warrant attention for entities outside the public sector for the benefits they may provide to their property asset management.” This was also written 8 years ago and also stands the test of time.
The NAMS Property manual has been renewed and upgraded – click here to find out more. Standing the test of time means that it’s been converted into an e-book for everyone to access anywhere anytime. This renewal also includes a community database to share and learn how to build component level data models. We also aim to share stories from various industries over time and continually provide content on property asset management planning as the industry further develops and evolves.
Written by Steve Lyons