By Byron Dunlap, P.E., LEED AP   

Investment in existing and future infrastructure assets has been deficient for decades. There is both an increasing demand for existing infrastructure maintenance and renewal as well as future proposed infrastructure needs. As a result, many built assets are retained in service well beyond their initial design service life, exposing potential underlying risks.

This paradigm is particularly true for organizations owning massive asset portfolios with broad mission objectives such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND). Both organizations invested heavily in military installation expansion starting in the 1940s. However, depending on the condition of this aged infrastructure, there is an inherent risk to mission, operations and failure now.

The development of infrastructure asset management planning has become an integral part of facility planning with respect to DOD. The shift towards asset management and total asset visibility is also being developed by DND. This will ultimately bolster the on-going discussion of how best to maintain aging infrastructure.

Across the globe, asset management planning is being implemented and yielding results by allowing for a much better determination of long-term operations, maintenance, asset rehabilitation and renewal, and new capital needs. In addition, the risks associated with various funding scenarios can be reported to decision-makers. This allows a more informed political discussion on sustainable funding requirements.


In the United States, infrastructure challenges are well documented. In the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a “D” grade, meaning the infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. A large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration.

Similarly, a report by Canadian construction associations and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities found that one-third of the country’s municipal infrastructure is in fair, poor or very poor condition. Based on a survey of municipalities, which own 60 percent of Canada’s core infrastructure, the report found that nearly 35 percent of assets need attention. Without an increase in current reinvestment rates, the condition of Canada’s core municipal infrastructure will gradually decline, costing more money and risking service disruption.

Canada began investing heavily in military installation expansion starting in the 1940s, including Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador, which was completed in 1943. PHOTOS COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE


Cardno was contracted by Defence Construction Canada to implement a Capital Asset Management System for DND, which owns and operates bases, wings, and facilities in all provinces and territories across Canada. The project objective was to provide consistent asset visibility across all Canadian military branches. Cardno conducted facility condition assessments on 75-million-ft2 of facilities. Tasks included an inventory (using the Uniformat II-ASTM classification) and evaluation of the structural, architectural, plumbing, roofing, electrical, and mechanical elements of every asset assigned to determine sustainment, restoration, and modernization requirements.

The asset portfolio was quite diverse, involving a variety of asset types in addition to site infrastructure and heritage facilities. Inventory and assessment data was collected, reviewed and populated into a web-based capital asset management software.

The assessments included conducting visual inspections to identify repair, lifecycle renewal/replacement, upgrade or code compliance requirements and estimate the remaining service life for components; prioritizing and categorizing requirements in accordance with predetermined criteria; preparing cost estimates for renewal/replacement, repair, upgrade or compliance requirements; and providing reports and data summaries per facility/site/region as required.

The types of facility elements that were inspected and assessed encompassed everything from the building envelope, including roof, windows, doors, walls, siding, to load-bearing elements, mechanical and electrical systems, plumbing, elevators and lifting systems, fire detection and suppression, and generators.

The overall period of performance for the field assessments was two years (February 2016 to January 2018). A work plan and schedule were developed to mobilize seven multidisciplinary teams of three assessors, including one French speaking team to conduct assessments in Quebec.

Each team was comprised of a mechanical assessor, electrical assessor, and interior/exterior civil assessor. One of the team members was designated as field team lead responsible to execute the schedule and daily logistics. There were also multiple field quality control personnel responsible for validating the consistency of the data collection and overall data review and provide realtime comments to the assessors. After each trip there would be a discussion to develop lessons learned and update the component catalog and business rules as needed.

While organizationally, the work was set, from a planning perspective, the travel, logistics, and communication with local points of contact proved to be complicated. In addition, the entire project team needed visibility on tracking the field work and completion status. Field work ultimately was conducted in every province of Canada including within the Arctic Circle.

To manage this effort, Cardno developed a web-based project management tool specifically to manage the complicated logistics and planning. The system was GIS-enabled and was capable of communicating planned trip teams, locations, flights, lodging, points of contact, and assessment in real time.

A Capital Asset Management System implemented for Canada’s Department of National Defence included facility condition assessments on 75-million-ft² of facilities. The project objective was to provide consistent asset visibility across all Canadian military branches. IMAGE COURTESY CARDNO


Standing up a project of this magnitude presents many challenges particularly with respect to mobilizing qualified assessment teams that must collect facility data and conduct assessments in a consistent manner. The first step in this process was to develop a project-specific component catalog with data collection business rules. This digital living document was something that field teams carried with them as a reference during the assessments. The component catalog identified what building (asset) systems and components were part of the scope, the degree of detail required for each, and how they are assessed.

The business rules were a detailed set of guidelines for what and how facility data was to be collected consistently. Following the development of the initial catalog and business rules, the project team conducted a detailed five-day training calibration with the primary field teams. The calibration reviewed and trained very detailed project specifics and requirements and incorporated a mock assessment to prepare for the field work.

This initial calibration was for the primary field team members (subject matter experts) who would eventually conduct a pilot assessment for the first three assessment trips. This team then developed lessons learned and updated the catalog and business rules to have a second training calibration for the remaining assessment teams.

The final mobilization included seven teams, which mobilized over an 18-month timeframe to complete the field assessments.

Byron Dunlap, P.E., LEED AP, is Project Manager/Office Manager, Principal – Asset Management, Cardno;

[This article first printed in the September-October 2018 issue of The Military Engineer]