Taking the Guesswork Out of Sustainability Assessment
For most municipalities, building and managing capacity within an organization responsible for so many variables is a constant challenge, and asset management is no exception, especially when it comes to assessing current conditions and predicting future sustainability. It is a gap we’ve recognized with many of our clients, so when the City of Grand Forks presented us with a need to examine the sustainability of their services in a way that could deliver all the information they needed in a clear and concise way, consultants Sara Stevens and Scott Shepherd saw an opportunity.
“There are no tools that are simple and readily available to measure and report of service delivery,” Scott explains. With this knowledge, and working with the needs identified by Grand Forks, the Service Sustainability Assessment Tool–SSAT for short–was created. “We developed the idea and then brainstormed with Grand Forks and industry experts to further refine the idea.”
Built in Excel, the tool allows service teams to perform a relatively quick self-assessment of core municipal services that include water and wastewater, drainage and flood protection, transportation, parks and recreation and civic protection. Using a scoring scale of 0-3, each of which are associated with corresponding percentage values, staff can evaluate how sustainable services currently are as well as predict future sustainability, allowing them to set targets and track their success.
What is perhaps the most significant achievement of this tool is how it translates exceedingly complex topics into accessible language that is easy to understand no matter the level of knowledge about each service. In about 15-minutes, an complete assessment of a given services can be compiled, from which a visually dynamic report can be generated to clearly communicate that information to a given audience – general summaries for elected officials and more refined details for municipal staff. Impacts on a service’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions year-to-year can be easily tracked and compared. It also makes it easy to review if they are meeting current financial planning goals, as well as if future needs will still fit within projected budgeting, ultimately eliminating blind spots many municipalities currently struggle with.
On Saturday, April 7, 2018, Urban Systems was honoured to receive the ACEC-BC Award of Merit for the development of the SSAT. And while Sara and Scott were integral in the development of the tool, both recognize how important a role the City of Grand Forks has played in taking the idea from concept to creation. Both will continue to work with the City as they use the SSAT as a report card system to help develop action plans and strategies for not only improving the sustainability of services, but also communicate to the public how funding is being used to achieve their goals. Also now available as a free resource on Asset Management BC, Sara and Scott are pleased to see how the SSAT will help other communities in the future.