APWA Book Review

Getting the Most out of Your Infrastructure Assets
A Guide to Using Infrastructure Asset Management Systems

By Andrew C. Lemer, Ph.D.

Sewers, water systems, streets, parks, public buildings, and the like—public works infrastructure—are the foundation, the skeleton, sinews, and nerves of society, a complex technical system that provides us with a varied range of valuable and essential services. Taken together, the facilities of infrastructure are among our most important assets, a storehouse of wealth that each generation inherits, uses, and passes on to succeeding generations. As responsible officials, as beneficiaries and as owners of this legacy, we are all stakeholders. We share a responsibility to use these assets wisely, to conserve and enhance their value.

Getting the Most out of Your Infrastructure Assets—A Guide to Using Infrastructure Asset Management Systems is designed to help public works managers, public officials, and others to understand how those assets—our public works infrastructure—can be managed to get the highest possible return for the public. The Guide discusses the goals, philosophies, principles and practical methods and tools that can be used for public works “asset management.”

The goal of infrastructure asset management is to achieve the greatest economic, environmental, and social benefits from the public’s investment of tax money, land, and other resources that go into building and operating our public works, i.e., the highest possible “return on investment.” This means developing, operating, and maintaining infrastructure to provide the services the community requires, efficiently, now and in the future. The Guide aims particularly to assist readers wishing to develop and use an infrastructure asset management system (IAMS), a set of methods and tools to support comprehensive management of a jurisdiction’s infrastructure. An IAMS supports a community’s pursuit of high return on investment and also meets the requirements of the “modified approach” to preparing basic financial statements under the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 34, adopted in 1999. Agencies adopting “asset management” practices need not, however, adopt this modified approach in their financial reporting.

The Guide is written with the presumption that readers are concerned about the effective management of their public works infrastructure and will wish to establish or procure a functional IAMS to support their decision-making. An asset management system is a composite of data, computer software, and analysis procedures. It may be relatively simple or very complex; the typical implementation is likely to involve use of computers, geographic information systems (GIS), and advanced software.

The Guide is divided into four sections. Section 1 covers the purpose of the Guide, the “why” of asset management, the services and benefits of infrastructure, the meaning of public works “assets,” and asset management as operations and maintenance.

The Guide presents briefly methods, procedures, and tools that may be used to manage infrastructure to achieve high returns on the public’s invested assets. Setting up an asset management system and using it effectively requires careful thought about what is to be accomplished as well as how to do it.

Section 2 considers the principles and practices for estimating the value of a community’s infrastructure assets, and the costs and benefits of the services those assets provide to the community. The discussion considers key management issues likely to arise as agencies undertake to implement effective asset management systems.

Section 3 discusses the data required for asset management and the database management and analysis tools available to support decision-making. This section will inevitably be made obsolete by continuing development in this rapidly evolving field.

Section 4 looks to the future. Current trends in government policy, management practice, and infrastructure technology will no doubt lead to further change in the job that infrastructure managers are asked to do.

Several appendices include information to assist readers to apply infrastructure asset management in practice. The Glossary (Appendix A) offers definitions of many of the terms used here. Appendix B lists several books and government reports, as well as academic journals that discuss principles and practices presented here. Appendix C lists software vendors that offer tools for asset management.

For more information on purchasing this book and other American Public Works Association books, please visit the APWA Bookstore on-line at www.apwa.net or call the Member Services Hotline at 1-800-848-APWA (2792), ext. 3560.