How to tackle aging U.S. infrastructure? See what RICS proposes to manage public assets

by Brianna Crandall — April 24, 2017 — As President Donald Trump plans to unveil his infrastructure proposal, perhaps as soon as next month, a new research report from U.K.-based international real estate accreditation organization RICS sets out how policymakers and the private sector can work in tandem to address the long-term infrastructure demands that ensure public works investments realize financial and social benefits.

The report, called Infrastructure Management: Current Practices and Future Trends, makes the case for how public-private sector partnerships (P3) can inform a comprehensive strategy to manage the massive demands for new public assets and to manage already built public assets.

The report is based on conversations and roundtable discussions with industry leaders and professionals who work across the infrastructure sector. By providing a framework of current practices and challenges, it sets out a range of recommendations for policymakers.

RICS notes that this report is particularly timely as the Trump Administration looks to raise an estimated $1 trillion in proposed funding for significant public infrastructure investment over the next 10 years.

Top 5 insights from the Infrastructure Management report:

  1. Politicians and policymakers are encouraged to look beyond election cycles and what the report calls “the ribbon-cutting syndrome.” Massive infrastructure projects require strategies that make them more efficient and reduce lifecycle costs in the long term. They should not be informed by the lowest costs that appeal in the short term.
  2. During roundtable discussions in New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto, experts in infrastructure investment, construction and operations agreed that infrastructure projects are overly complicated and require extensive upfront planning to estimate pricing risks and payback models. As one leader commented, “Conducting infrastructure projects across the United States is like trying to do business across 50 different countries.”
  3. The report points to a few successful infrastructure funding models through public-private partnerships (P3). Most U.S. projects are funded through debt finance whereas Canada, for example, has successfully partnered with the private sector to reach long-term public infrastructure needs.
  4. Infrastructure impacts people’s lives! While debates can often be overshadowed by political processes and the cost of a project, recent bridge collapses and the Flint water crisis, for example, grab national attention. This reminds the public of how infrastructure, and the decline thereof, has an impact on their lives.
  5. Considering that the combined average age of infrastructure in the U.S. is at the end of the 20- to 30-year lifecycle, this report makes the case for a better strategy to reduce the lifecycle measure to a more sustainable average age of 15 years.

RICS will convene a panel of experts and launch the Infrastructure Management: Current Practices and Future Trends report at its annual RICS Summit of the Americas May 1–3, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois.

RICS is a global professional body working across land, real estate, construction and infrastructure in more than 140 markets across the world, aiming to instill market confidence and build trust across the built environment.