Life Cycle Benefits

Most now are familiar with life cycle costs. Infrastructure agencies build detailed and complex models for these costs and, given replacement costs and useful life of components, detailed prediction software is now available.  But benefits are a different matter.  We have yet to develop a software program for that.

Looking now to current infrastructure proposals, how much attention is paid to the life cycle of benefits?   For example, what are the long-term benefits of a new road?  Often justification is based on time savings, but how long do these time savings last?   Those who remember the early days of the ring route in Melbourne will know that it cut about 30 minutes off the peak travel time from the airport to the city – but only for about 2-3 months – and then it was back to pre ring route time of 60 minutes.    Was this ‘benefit decay’ factored in?

Manufacturers and retailers pay a great deal of attention to ‘product’ or ‘service’ life cycles. They seek to anticipate the decline or change in demand for what they are producing so as to be ready to produce a new product or service as the old one hits its peak and starts to decline.   They don’t assume that they are ‘building capacity for the future’, for they realise that the future will be very different, and require different products. They seek to maximise the present.

We have been brought up on notions of infrastructure longevity and service stability, but could it now be time to re-think and incorporate more benefit analysis into infrastructure planning?

3 Thoughts on “Life Cycle Benefits

  1. Patrick Whelan on December 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm said:

    Benefits change over time, and it is obviously very hard to predict, whether positive or negative.

    An example, back in the 1980s, a courthouse was built in an outer Perth suburb. At that time all its work was criminal. It had two courtrooms and served a catchment population of about 40,000. Today, it is still there, but now deals with both criminal and civil, and serves a population of close to 200,000. To cope, they have had to convert the Clerk of Courts office into a civil hearing room. Both civil and criminal overflow cases have to be heard in Perth, some 30km away.

    Yes, the benefit of dispensing justice locally was and is being delivered, Now not as well as with the smaller population, but still happening. Problem is, benefits have been diminishing for some years, and despite the arguments put forward over the last ten years, there is still no action.

    The current arguments are for a five court complex with a life to 2030. Beyond that, who knows. What demographic changes will influence the primary benefit? What legislative changes between then and now will affect case load? These are imponderables. Even the 2030 time frame is based on population increase only. Other changes could severely limit benefit delivery.

  2. I think what’s needed is to see projects in the context of the big picture for a community… I know that’s even more complicated, but at a certain level it doesn’t need to be: individual projects might come and go, but what does a sustainable future for our city look like? This vision will be continually refined over time, but it provides the context for individual projects and addresses the issue of negative ‘net benefits’ for the Casino project identified in the 9 December post.

  3. Erin Evans on December 19, 2016 at 6:46 pm said:

    great to see this discussion about whole of life cycle benefits for infrastructure. Even more so to have a discussion that this whole of life cycle takes a systemic view of the needs of a broad range of stakeholders. How much are these issues recognised as the wicked problems that they are by the decision makers and key influencers? In my opion and experience of working with systems and complex issues an absolute understanding cannot be predicted because of how emergent the situation is. However when we acknowledge this, when we use more systemic thinking and engage with the broader patterns of the situation we can improve outcomes. when we work with a more systems view of world then we can develop an improved outcome and develop critical questions that help us to learn, refine, adapt and innovate.

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