The Scottish public sector owns a significant amount of property and infrastructure. The focus of the guidance recently published by the Scottish Government (the Guidance) is on introducing the concept of a systems approach and application of the investment hierarchy set out in the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan 2021/22 – 2025/26 (IIP). The IIP has continuously promoted an inclusive net zero emissions economy, the focus being on three distinctive themes:
- Enabling net zero emissions and environments sustainability.
- Driving inclusive economic growth.
- Building resilient and sustainable places.
A systems approach
Promoting a system-wide approach is not a new concept, it was introduced by the Infrastructure Commission’s Phase 1 Key Findings Report and was recommended as far back as 2011 by the Christie Commission. A systems approach recognises that the strategy to be developed, issue to be explored or problem to be solved must be set in context and follow a systematic approach. The Guidance emphasises on the need for:
- Collaboration within and across organisations and sectors in relation to goal setting and asset management initiatives.
- Recognition of dependencies and connectivity.
- An understanding of value in the eyes of the users of assets.
- Measurement of success and performance in terms of outputs and outcomes achieved.
- A holistic digital and information management strategy for asset management that aligns to corporate objectives and supports improved data led decisions.
These themes should be considered in the context of the life cycle of assets, location and all organisations involved.
The purpose of the investment hierarchy is to provide a common methodology to assist the planning and decision-making in the public sector infrastructure investment. Public sector leads and managers should first determine the future infrastructure needs and demands in the context of net zero targets and inclusive growth priorities through a Property Asset Strategy and achieve those needs by maximising the use of existing assets and repurposing and reconfiguring them whenever feasible with preference to co-location and shared facilities.
A Property Asset Strategy requires the consideration of a dual perspective - an internal perspective identifying relevant corporate strategies and policies and an external perspective identifying national infrastructure priorities and issues, focusing on collaboration, adoption of sustainable practices, driving inclusive growth, use of technology and innovation and taking a whole life approach to maximising the life of existing and new assets.
The Guidance further identifies particular enablers that aid the delivery of efficient and effective property asset management. These are:
- Leadership and culture: Using positional authority as a means for creating new governance structures, aligning objectives and prioritising investment across organisations as well as facilitating effective collaboration across services and assets.
- Collaborative asset management: Identifying and implementing opportunities for collaborative use of assets.
- Data Management and Digitisation: Combining data on buildings and their performance with data on user needs, carbon emissions and outcomes achieved.
- Project appraisal and business care: Applying a common methodology when appraising projects and utilising the investment hierarchy.
- Whole Life: Emphasising on prolonging asset life through improving suitability for current uses and adapting for future uses.
- Change: Facilitating new methods of service delivery and integrated delivery models, exploiting technology and digitisation for resilience where possible.
The Guidance is the latest step in the implementation of the three main themes of the IIP, namely: (1) enabling net zero emissions and environmental sustainability; (2) driving inclusive economic growth; and (3) building resilient and sustainable places. It particularly prioritises a combined approach across organisations with a focus on utilising existing assets to address the current common challenges for property asset management such as changing models of service delivery, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.