Sustainable Growth

President Obama said it best: “To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods and information.”

And what is one key part of that? Wise investment in port infrastructure. That means wharves and terminals, as well as security, utilities (water, wastewater, storm water), energy, information technology and telecommunications systems, just to name a few.

But if you’re capital-constrained — and who isn’t in this economy? — how do you determine your top investment priorities? Taking an integrated asset management approach can help.

But what if you could infuse sustainability elements into that approach? You can. Addressing environmental, community and financial impact as an integral part of infrastructure improvement not only yields a return on your investment, but it also can provide opportunities for reliability, efficiency and cost savings.

How is this different? A traditional approach to infrastructure and asset management considers each system independently. For example, a storm water system is evaluated separately from the energy system or the security system.

Valuable insight? Absolutely. But what happens when you look at your systems collectively and holistically? Linking each system and piggybacking efficiencies is integrated asset management. When you employ a more comprehensive strategy to explore synergies at every point of connection, you can streamline improvements and save time and money in the process.

Similarly, sustainability programs often are viewed as merely traditional environmental programs, examples being operating the port in compliance with environmental requirements or requiring LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — certification for new and existing buildings.

It’s easy to think that by “greening” our operations and our buildings, we’re becoming sustainable as ports. But when it comes to long-term sustainability, if you’re only looking at your operations and buildings, you’re only seeing part of the picture.

True port sustainability can’t be achieved if the infrastructure supporting the functions of the port and its buildings isn’t also environmentally smart, good for the community and cost-effective.

To move to the next level of sustainable asset management while maximizing scarce operating and investment dollars, you need a comprehensive approach to both infrastructure management and sustainability. This approach must be rooted in an accurate asset inventory, a complete asset maintenance history, ongoing asset assessments and the modeling/optimization of your asset lifecycle.

And don’t forget the need for sustainability goals. Understanding the interconnectivity among your existing infrastructure, your business processes and your sustainability goals will help you create a long-term strategy. This strategy, in turn, can help you take a phased-in approach regarding upgrades or new projects.

It also will help you integrate sustainability considerations without the expense of multiple, separately managed projects. For example, a project to upgrade a storm water system may reveal an opportunity to integrate a security requirement, a flood prevention need or a community aesthetic goal.

By abandoning traditional silos and employing comprehensive, holistic strategies, you can achieve the most innovative, functional, efficient, cost-effective and enduring solutions possible.

Consider integrating asset management with your sustainability goals and see how you can maximize your port’s investments for long-term stewardship, growth and prosperity.

Cheryl Koshuta is director of seaports and airports for Weston Solutions, an environmental and engineering consulting firm specializing in integrating sustainable solutions for its clients. Prior to that, she was director of environmental affairs at the Port of Portland, Ore. This article originally appeared in the Summer edition of Seaports Magazine, a Journal of Commerce sister publication.

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