We’ve been talking a lot about maintenance lately. Not just in regards to what it entails, but in its overall perception across the industry. A perception we see as threefold: how the role of maintenance is understood and incorporated into design-build and budgeting processes, how the value of maintenance is communicated to the client or property owner, and how maintenance is actually carried out on GSI sites.
Our learnings from the past few months have revealed that there is a disconnect between concept, design, and what is required to maintain the GSI systems for optimum performance and the skills required to perform such needs. A few big takeaways for us include:
- The role that maintenance and monitoring play in a GSI project’s success is undervalued and this is a huge issue.
- For a GSI site’s lasting success, community buy-in, aesthetic beauty, efficacy, and the ability to uphold a Triple Bottom Line approach all depend considerably on the development and implementation of a long-term maintenance plan.
- There is a need for increased engagement and communication between stakeholders and the public on maintenance requirements and best management practices (BMPs)—this should be happening upfront and on an ongoing basis, starting from each respective project’s conception.
- Maintenance considerations must also be a part of the conversation between designers, architects, and contractors during the entire timeline of the project.
- Education certainly plays a large role, but there are additional opportunities to create greater value around maintenance and how it is perceived by including maintenance considerations in conversations upfront, pushing for higher workforce standards, or rethinking traditional contracts and financing for projects.
While these learnings identify the obstacles that relegate maintenance to an afterthought, they also identify opportunities were we can effectively work to increase its value and bring it to the forefront. As intermediaries between client and institutional regulations, businesses are especially positioned to reframe how the greater industry and public perceive, and therefore practice, GSI maintenance.
January’s Quarterly Meeting further focused on the role businesses can play in bringing maintenance to the forefront in an informative panel discussion lead by some of our very own GSI Partners and industry affiliates (special thanks to LandStudies, TEND landscape, Water Logs, and the Philadelphia Water Department!). Whether it be in building a more specialized and valued workforce, creating partnerships that allow maintenance to be sufficiently managed, or rethinking contracts and capital project financing to account for maintenance costs, businesses can take the lead in not only communicating maintenance’s value, but also in demonstrating it.
By better valuing maintenance in your own business, you are able to better engage private property owners and managers in its importance as well. This is fundamental, especially as GSI continues to expand on private property. If demands for higher quality and specialized maintenance also come from property owners, it will additionally work to drive a change in perceptions and the standards and expectations within the industry.
More and more, there is recognition that successful GSI and stormwater management relies upon regional cooperation and innovative models to make projects cost-effective, sustainable, and best able to generate social, environmental, economic benefits within their surrounding communities. Public-private partnerships (P3s) are already demonstrating their sustained effectiveness in designing, implementing, and managing GSI across various watersheds.
In addition to collective and collaborative efforts, innovative projects, processes, and models that break new ground and take initiative are needed to significantly advance GSI and its overall impact. The Philadelphia region continues to be a leader in innovative approaches and we look forward to celebrating some of the projects and initiatives that exemplify such forward thinking at the 2018 Excellence in GSI Awards.