Facility Master Plans: A Key Building Block of Asset Management

Authors:

  • Eileen Feldman - Hazen and Sawyer

For utilities, renewing and replacing the physical components, or assets, that comprise their facilities is an ongoing challenge. The framework of asset management aids utility operators in identifying the strategies that achieve the balance between services provided and lowest life-cycle cost. Increasingly, utilities are employing asset management tools to inventory and assess existing infrastructure and operating protocols to identify optimal investment opportunities to ensure reliability, maintain operability, and contribute to system sustainability. Federal, state, and local regulators have contributed to this trend, providing guidance and incentives for utilities to adopt asset management strategies, by including asset management plans as a requirement for permitting and financing approval.

For smaller utilities, the process can seem costly and burdensome, especially when operating within limited financial and institutional constraints. Understanding how to begin the process can also seem challenging.

A case study focusing on the experience of East Orange, New Jersey, identifies the Facility Master Plan as the scalable first step in the asset management path. The East Orange Water Commission prepared a robust Facility Master Plan for the Commission’s service area utilizing a variety of non-proprietary tools, including development of a shared Google Earth package that could be accessed and amended by both the municipal staff and consultants as additional information on the Commission’s infrastructure became available. The infrastructure inventory was supplemented by comprehensive interviews with operations staff, which allowed for a deeper understanding of the capital needs and enriched the findings presented in the Facility Master Plan.

During recent managerial changes at the Commission, the Facility Master Plan has greatly aided in passing along historic information to new stakeholders and identifying critical expenditures to keep the Commission in compliance and improving for the future. As a result of including cost estimating personnel as part of the core team, the FMP proved highly adaptable to restructured priorities to accommodate regulatory requirements.

For more information, please contact the author at efeldman@hazenandsawyer.com.

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