Facility Dude

The Future of Public Works

By Emma Finch
Jan 17, 2012

Government, Industry News

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Close up of a builder's hand holding a construction hat

These days, public works professionals have to apply “bigger picture” thinking to their jobs. It’s no longer just about fixing the day-to-day issues; it’s also about considering the future needs of the community. Issues like climate change, resource scarcity and the needs of the population give public works professionals a lot to consider when deciding on new community projects. Decisions should be made which balance what’s best for residents, the environment, the community as a whole and which improve quality of life.

The difficulty facing public works is that the needs of the city and the environment can be at odds. For instance, a city may need to reduce their emissions but also have a problem with traffic congestion. Simply expanding the streets does nothing to deal with environmental concerns. The government needs to make decisions which encourage the behavioral changes they want to see in residents. Instead of expanding streets, put in more bike and pedestrian lanes, or encourage the use of public transportation. In this way, cities and counties can make changes with the long-term in mind, which will make their districts more sustainable.

Another trend public works would like to see are residents taking an increased sense of ownership over their communities. Public works departments are involving citizens in the planning process of projects so that their interests are taken into account, since public infrastructure should belong to the public. Public works professionals must also bear in mind that many of their customers are not born yet. Future generations will benefit from the projects and programs that public works departments are doing today, which should be taken into account when planning new community projects. This new perspective of public works requires that professionals examine every decision they make and ensure that the result will positively impact both current and future community demands.

This shift in thinking highlights the critical need for public works professionals to take a proactive approach in managing assets and infrastructure. The result of being more proactive is that the life of equipment and infrastructure can be extended, which reduces the government’s expenses, as well as guarantees that future generations get to enjoy the benefits of the infrastructure maintained by public works. With the help of dedicated software tools, public works professionals can ensure they keep track of their entire department’s work. A thorough record of the efforts of the public works departments gives a clear picture of the past, which helps map a course to the future.

American City & County published an informative article about this new role that public works leaders must take on, which can be found here: http://americancityandcounty.com/pubwks/facilities/future-sustainable-development-201008/

 

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