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One of the most pressing issues among public sector organizations is the development of new infrastructure funding models to modernize the way these organizations fund themselves. Funding is probably the most challenging aspect of infrastructure planning. In past years, much public infrastructure was funded through the issuance of debt instruments. With stubbornly low interest rates prevailing for much of the last 20 years, long-term debt markets are not an attractive investment. With the constrained budgets of provincial and federal governments, many public sector organizations depending on government funding need to consider other funding models, even if it means doing something new.

Considerations

When considering funding alternatives for an infrastructure asset, the Project Team must consider some or all the following variables in its analysis:

  • the size of the asset
  • the useful life of the asset
  • the length of time the asset will be kept
  • renewal or expansion of an asset
  • credit worthiness of the public sector organization
  • whether it needs to own the asset
  • how much risk the public sector organization is willing to assume

Once the Project Team has determined the funding requirements for its infrastructure plan, it can use this as a strategy to source funding. Thankfully, new sources of funding, which are eager to invest in the right type of infrastructure assets, have developed during the last several years.

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Imagine custom lights at no extra cost! Every infrastructure project has its unique challenges, which creates an opportunity for either a great story or a horror story.  One of our members was planning a lighting retrofit in their main administration building when it realized they had a problem. The member wanted completely new fixtures for the entire building, but if it replaced all the light fixtures with new ones and the new fixtures happened to be smaller than the former fixtures, then it would require painting the ceiling in nearly a hundred rooms.

Naturally the IGNITE team jumped in to find a solution.  As IGNITE views its contractors, vendors, and manufacturers as important participants in completing an infrastructure project, it collaborated with its lighting sources to find a fixture that would eliminate the need to paint. No fixture could be found that would cover the same area from anywhere across the globe, so IGNITE reached out to one of its manufacturer Resource Members to ask a favour.  The favour was to build a custom fixture and get it UL certified and DLC listed, which was no small cost or expense.  The Resource Member agreed to help and even delivered the fixture at virtually the same cost as the previously quoted units.  A special thanks from IGNITE to BJ Take Inc. for going the extra mile.

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

― Elon Musk

One of our member projects included reducing the electricity consumption in the local community arena.  As we collaborated with the project team, they told us it was also important to fix any electrical issues as we encountered them.

 

It’s always exciting when one of our members gets a great win, and the Arena project was a great win for the community. The Arena got amazing new lights for the entire building. This lighting retrofit reduced the annual power cost attributed to lighting by nearly 70%. By working closely with the electrical contractor and the project team, we vastly improved the lighting quality throughout, but particularly over the bleachers and ice pad.  After the lighting change, there were areas of the ice pad with at least twice as much light quality, which virtually eliminated previously dimly lit areas on the ice surface. We also worked closely with the electrical contractor to fix a few nagging electrical issues. All this was done with a neutral impact to the member’s operating budget. Feedback from the community has been very positive.

 

Taking control of aging infrastructure is a challenge for any organization. What IGNITE offers its members is a means of simplifying the process to address the present issues affecting public sector infrastructure.  IGNITE provides access to all the resources required to not only get the job done presently but to future-proof the asset by ensuring the long-term operating costs are considered for every aspect of the project.

 

“As soon as you open your mind to doing things differently, the doors of opportunity practically fly off their hinges.”

― Jay Abraham, The Sticking Point Solution


Planning for the long-term is a relatively new concept for many public sector organizations. During the last several decades, various groups have promoted its importance to organizations of all sizes. Although it is encouraging public sector organizations are becoming aware of the need for long-term planning for infrastructure, to ensure the truly, long-term success of an infrastructure plan, the Asset Champion must direct the Project Team to focus on sustainability and risk mitigation at each phase of the asset’s useful life.

Sustainability

For an infrastructure asset to be truly sustainable, it must provide significant energy, economic environmental, and educational benefits to all stakeholders associated with the asset. Sustainability goals need to be defined by the Project Team under the guidance of the Asset Champion early in the infrastructure planning process. The Asset Champion assists the Project Team to adopt and ultimately satisfy the agreed upon sustainability goals through the implementation of the organization’s infrastructure plan. Part of a sustainable asset plan must also include budgets which are predictable, affordable, and planned years in advance.

Risk Mitigation

Managing infrastructure assets involves significant risk. To ensure the success of an infrastructure plan, the Project Team must focus on managing or mitigating as much of this risk as possible. The Project Team under the direction of the Asset Champion must develop a risk mitigation strategy for all stages of the useful life of an asset. To ensure the effectiveness of a risk mitigation strategy, asset risk must continually be monitored and assessed.

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A recent member project included the complete retrofit of the community’s 320 streetlights. When IGNITE Teams design infrastructure solutions, they always plan well beyond the construction stage, often for the full useful life of the asset. To future-proof this project, our team felt it was important for these streetlights to fit the needs of the community well beyond their installation.

As the proposed lighting retrofit included an LED solution, the team felt it should research the pros and cons of LED streetlights. The team found much research on how LED streetlights were too bright or harsh on a driver’s eyes.  It also found other discussions about the effects of very bright, almost blue-colored street lights and their effect on the circadian system of humans and animals disrupting their sleep patterns.  After digesting all this research, the IGNITE Team proposed the community consider using a warmer, less harsh colour for all its streetlights. The member agreed and opted for the warmer colour.

Often the simplest solution is the easiest one.  The IGNITE team prides itself in finding the right answers to the most challenging situations. It believes there is always an answer, even if its as simple as ordering a different colour for a lighting fixture to ensure local residents can sleep at night.

“As soon as you open your mind to doing things differently, the doors of opportunity practically fly off their hinges.”

― Jay Abraham, The Sticking Point Solution

As part of the MAPLE project, IGNITE committed to providing Wiikwemkoong youth with hockey equipment through the Wiikwemkoong Minor Hockey Association.

An IGNITE Team member found a used sporting equipment bank in Calgary who was very interested in supporting the MAPLE project. In late 2017, Comrie Sports Equipment Bank sent 22 pallets of gently used sports equipment by truck to Regina. Comrie provided all this equipment and transportation to Regina for free! Once the equipment arrived in Regina, IGNITE arranged with Manitoulin Transport to pick up the equipment. Manitoulin, which is a resource member to the IGNITE Program, generously donated a portion of the shipping cost to help this project become a reality.

A few months later, Wiikwemkoong Minor Hockey Association held a large event in the rink to make this equipment available to the local community. This initiative was only successful because of the generous financial support of Comrie Sports Equipment Bank and Manitoulin Transport.

The IGNITE Team is very proud of what was accomplished through this team effort, and we trust the community youth will enjoy many hockey games with this equipment!

The successful long-term launch and management of assets includes an overwhelming number of choices and issues to address. To properly manage these assets, decision-making project teams (Project Teams) need to be selected, and designated champions (Asset Champions) need to direct these teams. Through a process of collaboration, this team should develop an infrastructure plan for each asset. To encourage effective management and to ensure the infrastructure plan remains on track, the champion needs to direct the project team to separate complex plans into many “bite-sized” components and attain a forward-moving consensus at each meeting through a process of collaboration amongst a cross-section of stakeholders. The champion should always direct these meetings in an unbiased manner.

 

Project Team Meeting

By adopting this collaborative and “bite-sized” strategy, the Project Team focuses on developing a short-term manageable action plan under the direction of the Asset Champion. As it is the duty of the Asset Champion to remain neutral and unbiased, the Champion neither approves nor disapproves Project Team choices. Rather, the main duty of the Champion is to encourage a dialogue between stakeholders and to ensure no one leaves the meeting without a short-term action plan to execute prior to the next meeting.  Through this collaborative, “bite-sized” approach, the Asset Champion can guide the team project through a series of meetings to successfully launch and manage these complex initiatives.

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The IGNITE Sustainable Communities Program is a well-designed series of risk mitigation processes that manages or eliminates many of the traditional risks associated with acquiring the use of an infrastructure asset. When designing the IGNITE PROGRAM, standards and risk mitigation procedures were developed for all stages.

As part of IGNITE’s mandate to serve its members, it commits to providing solutions with an “On Budget, On Time, No Risk” strategy. “On budget” is a strategy to keep within the budget of the infrastructure asset plan at all stages of its useful life. “On time” means any project activity is performed within the agreed upon time frame. “No risk” is a strategy of eliminating as much risk as possible for all stages of the infrastructure asset plan.

To ensure budget sustainability for the useful life of the member asset plan, IGNITE expects a vendor to satisfy the following strict criteria:

  • Match its product warranty length to the term of the member plan
  • Provide operational service, maintenance, and warranty service for the full duration of the member plan.
  • Price its product to include this level of service and warranty support. These prices are expected to be significantly lower than what the member could negotiate by itself.
  • Sign a vendor agreement to meet a minimum product performance standard on an ongoing basis for the duration of the member plan.

Vendors are continually reviewed by IGNITE for product performance and there may be situations where a product and a vendor could be removed from the PROGRAM due to under performance.

“I Do Not Trust You” Insurance

Despite all the proceeding, IGNITE designed one additional fail-safe feature, which it jokingly refers as the “I Do Not Trust You” insurance, to ensure the member plan would not be adversely affected by vendor non-compliance with its agreement with IGNITE.  To ensure profitability would not be harmed or materially interrupted by vendor non-compliance with its Vendor Agreement, the insurance covers the steps to ensure all service levels are maintained.  This insurance effectively moves the risk from within the IGNITE PROGRAM and sends it outside IGNITE to the insurance company.  The insurance company, in turn, pursues the vendor outside of the IGNITE PROGRAM, so there is no interruption to the member plan. This is done behind the scenes and the member is not even aware of it occurring.

To learn more about these risk mitigation strategies, contact IGNITE.

“As soon as you open your mind to doing things differently, the doors of opportunity practically fly off their hinges.”

― Jay Abraham, The Sticking Point Solution

The development, design, build, finance, long-term operation and maintenance of public infrastructure is complex, time-consuming, often requires very specific skills, and involves many stakeholders with competing interests. Increasingly, public sector organizations are looking for ways to more effectively launch and manage infrastructure assets for their complete useful life.

Although the primary focus of IGNITE is future-proofing member infrastructure, sometimes situations arise where IGNITE can help a member fix systems or mechanical process flow. As we all know one of the greatest needs we have as humans is blood in the event of an emergency.  Blood cannot be created or fabricated, it must be donated. With all the challenges of acquiring enough blood, losing any of it from mechanical processing failures must be avoided.