Infrastructure Resilience: Asset Management

Infrastructure resilience is focussed on the resilience planned for, designed and built into assets, networks and systems.  The NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy identifies four elements of infrastructure resilience (resistance, reliability, redundancy and enhancing response and recovery) as illustrated in Figure 4 below. Improving any element improves overall infrastructure resilience. Considering all elements when planning and designing infrastructure, markedly improves overall infrastructure resilience.

Figure 4: Infrastructure Resilience

Local Governments are the owners and operators of a myriad of infrastructure assets that provide positive service or amenity to their communities e.g. transport infrastructure, water and wastewater, stormwater drainage, waste facilities, dams, community buildings, etc. To improve critical infrastructure resilience, it is vital that service standards for both business as usual and post-emergency events for each critical infrastructure asset are clearly defined and that resilience thinking is integrated into the entire asset management lifecycle (e.g. planning, design, operations and maintenance and disposal or replacement).  Increasing infrastructure resilience will likely decrease whole-of-life maintenance costing.

Figure 5: Infrastructure Resilience

Enhanced resilience measures should be considered a ‘no regret’ investment that protects lives, homes, schools, the economy and the environment. Providing evidence to build convincing business cases to secure funds should focus on the fact that if integrated early in design, spending just an additional 1% of new infrastructure project budget can provide effective mitigation to natural hazards and climate change. 

The benefits are realised in the operations phase where service interruptions may be minimised or avoided completely, responses improved and recovery times reduced.  This contributes to savings across all phases of the asset management lifecycle, especially after a disruption, when less time and money will need to be spent on recovery and reconstruction activities. Based on the increasing frequency and severity of natural hazards, only one large event is required to recover a 1% investment in resilience via avoided reconstruction costs or improved response and recovery based on good design7. Repeated exposure to hazards results in the 1% investment being recovered many times over.

The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) is the peak association for the professionals who deliver public works and engineering services to communities in Australia and New Zealand.  IPWEA are proactive in supporting local governments to implement effective asset management practices and have developed a number of tools and guides.

Defining Infrastructure as Critical

Defining what infrastructure is “critical” can be challenging for Local Governments as it is contextual and wholly dependent upon perspective and purpose.

Criticality is complex and not necessarily fixed in time.  As an example, a prescribed dam that supplies water to a suburb may become critical over time, perhaps over a period of years as the community expands to accommodate population growth; or as a result of an earthquake or changes in weather patterns; or as a result of ineffective asset management processes. At the other end of the scale are the “may become critical” assets that can impinge on critical ones. As an example, if a low priority access road gets washed away or becomes blocked by debris, it could impede access to a critical asset such as a hospital. These type of low order assets can essentially become critical in real time.
It is recommended that Local Governments adopt the criticality assessment model identified in the NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy but scale the terms to assess criticality from their own perspective. The model grades infrastructure on the consequences of failure (vital, major, significant, low), rather than the likelihood failure will occur. Critical infrastructure resilience needs to be approached as an ongoing process, rather than as a one-time exercise in which resilience levels and asset-to-asset dependencies change and are recovered over time.

Table 4: Contextual Criticality

The starting point for Local Governments is to consider what is at risk should infrastructure they own or operate be destroyed or disabled, and how much that matters to both the organisation and the communities they serve. This will assist Local Government with defining the criticality of their assets which can then be used as a prioritisation tool for service restoration, mitigation investment and so on.