Maintenance is key, argues Richard Byatt
15th October 2009
Like many of you, I'm sure, I have spent a good part of the summer up a ladder maintaining my house. It's necessary but not particularly interesting work, making sure the place gets through another winter. There was more to do this year because I've put some off some of the essential jobs for too long.
Maintenance is not exciting, especially if you're a politician. Building new Zero carbon houses beats improving the energy efficiency of the existing stock; constructing new roads has the edge over repairing the existing network.
Giving his backing to a second high-speed rail line last month, Gordon Brown is reported as saying that Labor hopes to leave a legacy to rival the railways built by the Victorians: I am determined that we meet our contemporary challenges by investing in the infrastructure that will endow future generations, just as the Victorians left a legacy of investment for the 20th century he said.
The Victorians did indeed leave a legacy of investment but it is not a legacy that we have treated very well. Crumbling sewers, the creaking London Underground system and other failing infrastructure all attest to a lack of maintenance in the last century, which has continued in this.
The British are terrible at maintenance, it's a national disaster said Joseph Lampel, Professor of Strategy at Cass Business School. Of course, we are not alone. According to Benjamin Tal of CIBC World Markets: The global economy is running a major infrastructure deficit as the cost of decades of underinvestment is now surfacing.
Tal's report points out that when it comes to infrastructure investment, You have to run faster only to stay where you are. Even half a percentage oint drop in maintenance cost will cut the life span of an infrastructure asset by no less than ten years
Facilities managers understand the importance of funding not just new capital investment but the maintenance and renewal of infrastructure. The profession must ensure the principles of lifecycle costing are enshrined in spending decisions.
*capitalizing on the Upcoming Infrastructure Stimulus, CIBC World Markets Occasional Report #66