Developing an Integrated Asset Management Strategy with Andrew Sharman

As any Netflix binge watcher can tell you, how we experience the places in which we live and work has been brought to the forefront with…

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As any Netflix binge watcher can tell you, how we experience the places in which we live and work has been brought to the forefront with the recent works of Marie Kondo. While she focuses on the idea of tidying up personal spaces, the awareness that we should be willing to evaluate and plan our environments based on their current and future states is not a new one.

We make decisions every day about where we can best invest our time, our money, and our effort. These decisions may involve choices to establish a new space, or to restore an antique, or to retire a well-worn object. When we make these choices, we do so using information from the past, but with an eye toward the future. Put another way, we manage our assets.

Over the last few months, Vice-president (Facilities & Operations) Andrew Sharman and his team have been drafting a strategy to help the University of Alberta better manage its current and future assets. As he prepares to share their work in a campus town hall on April 11, we sat down with him to learn more about what integrated asset management could look like at the U of A.

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What is integrated asset management?

It's about looking at the university's buildings and other infrastructure as a whole and thinking about how we utilize our own assets in terms of student and research needs now and into the future. The goal is to maximize the use of good space, minimize the potential for critical failures that would affect the core mission, and bend the curve on our deferred maintenance burden. We want to look at all facets and focus our resources on maintaining and upgrading the university's most useful and well-used core assets.

Why is the university developing an integrated asset management strategy now?

The university has various plans related to space, buildings, and infrastructure, such as our long-range development plan, infrastructure maintenance plan, and capital plan, but an integrated asset management strategy would bring them under one umbrella; it will help us to evaluate them all in terms of the university's strategic objectives and goals in For the Public Good. If any aspects of those plans don't really fit, then they shouldn't really be in the overall strategy.

An integrated strategy will provide us with a coordinated approach. What's new about this is that we are explicitly looking at space utilization rates and through the use of data, determining what is good space - meaning what space is best meeting the teaching and research needs of the institution.

What opportunities and challenges do you foresee?

The opportunities are all related to identifying the best spaces in the university and using limited resources to invest in those spaces to ensure that they continue to support the core mission of the university. The challenge is that integrated asset management requires a different mindset, which focusses on using space well rather than expanding to new space. This will mean change for some people but it will also mean that our buildings and infrastructure are more reliable and less liable to major outages that interrupt core activities.

How could asset management change our campus environments?

There will be some changes to spaces and buildings. The Dentistry/Pharmacy Building, for example, is about to undergo major renewal. We are going to be demolishing some of the less functional space while also retaining and preserving the iconic, historical front-facing wings of the building. This same approach has been taken to preserve and upgrade other historical buildings, such as Triffo Hall, Pembina, Assiniboia, and Athabasca Halls, and more recently, the Emily Murphy House. Major renos are also being planned for Convocation Hall.

However, over time, we will likely discover that not all of our current assets are suited to today's needs and will not be salvageable. Some buildings, for instance, do not meet modern codes, such as disability access; some have some persistent maintenance issues which chronically affect their functionality.

Campuses change and evolve over time. A student 50 years from today will find that our campuses have changed from what we know now, just as a student from 1950 would find today's campus transformed from what they knew.

What will guide the decision-making?

First and foremost, we will be guided by For the Public Good and each faculty's academic plans. Good integrated asset management is based on evidence - data that measures the state of the building, its space utilization, costs of operation, environmental footprint, and maintenance. This data will help us to determine whether or not we invest in its upgrade or make the difficult decision to decommission and perhaps demolish it. In the case of Michener Park, for instance, after years of trying to keep up with maintenance issues, we have determined that it has reached the end of its life and can no longer serve its intended purpose.

What's on tap for the town hall on April 11?

I'll provide more information about the development of the integrated asset management strategy - what it is, where we are in the process, etc. My goal is to build awareness of some of the key challenges and issues when it comes to managing the incredible physical assets this university has.

I'll also be sharing information about how the Dentistry/Pharmacy Building project fits in. You'll be seeing a lot more activity around the building in about six weeks, so if you are interested in knowing what to expect, I invite you to come to learn more.

And, finally, I'm looking forward to hearing some feedback from faculty, staff, and students on the integrated asset management strategy and how we can best work together on these issues in the future.

Join Andrew Sharman and his senior Facilities & Operations leadership team during the noon hour on Thursday, April 11 for the Asset Management Strategy Town hall to learn more about the development of the U of A's Integrated Asset Management Strategy.

Thursday, April 11
12pm - 1pm
Council Chambers

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