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Comprehensive assessment and database helps Parks Canada to protect our national heritage

Parks Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada, protects and showcases Canada's natural and cultural heritage, including 47 national parks and 171 national historic sites. The Agency is responsible for approximately 18,000 assets, including buildings, facilities, grounds, roads, marine assets, and utility systems across Canada. The stewardship and sustainment of this large asset portfolio presents significant challenges due to limited budgets, the dispersed locations, and the remoteness of many assets.

In 2022, Parks Canada engaged Associated's Strategic Advisory Services team with subconsultant, Dillon Consulting, to review a select asset portfolio from 12 of its national parks. The inspections and assessments captured information on over 350 assets to identify trends in investment needs, including repairs and renewals, operations and maintenance, accessibility and code-related needs, climate adaptation, and energy/greening opportunities. 

Project Manager, Owen James, shares, "We had a very short window of opportunity to carry out the inspection work – after the winter snows had receded and before the spring opening of the parks to the public. Our inspections could not disturb visitors' activities." 

"Following our inspections, we analyzed the information we gathered and garnered insights from Parks Canada on costing for both construction and operational activities. We then evaluated regional climate pressures and other factors to determine the climate hazards and risks faced by each asset and the associated investment needs for the Agency."  

The inspection information and subsequent analysis has been captured in databases - a valuable tool that will allow Parks Canada's local field units to more effectively plan and manage their assets. The databases also support data consolidation, providing users with access to extensive data, including photographs, lists of components, life expectancies, condition information, renewal forecasts, recommendations, preventive and expected reactive maintenance needs, climate risks and recommended actions, energy profiles and opportunities, and accessibility improvement recommendations. As well, the databases provide a data-driven and holistic evaluation of investment needs to support the Agency’s budget submission to the Federal government.  

Other than the site assessments, the team had limited data about the assets; thus, costing for assets in unique locations across Canada was a challenge. The project team engaged a wide range of subject matter experts from across Associated and Dillon, together with information from Agency staff, reports, and national cost databases, to develop replacement and repair costs for the assets, considering the local construction markets, labour rates, remote locations, and heritage factors. Investment Planning & Cost Estimating Lead, Graham Lang, says, "The collective information enabled us to forecast the sustainment needs for the assets more accurately."

Understanding climate risk, energy, adaptation and greening and maintenance needs was also challenging. Twyla Kowalczyk, Climate Change Resilience Lead, advises, "We developed unique models based on the data collected and held in databases, and used the Retscreen Energy modelling, Climate Atlas of Canada, and our own in-house climate and maintenance models to determine the actions and costs required to maintain the assets, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve resilience of the asset portfolio." 

This asset management project helps Parks Canada to maintain a safe, accessible, and enjoyable national parks system for visitors today and in the future

The on-site assessments, analysis, and database provides Parks Canada with insights and information that is useful at a national and local level. Owen says, "The work has been very well received and the Agency has subsequently engaged Associated to improve data collection processes and templates, evaluate maintenance needs for all 18,000 assets across 35 field units and to provide recommendations for governance and procurement of maintenance works for the Agency." 

Associated's key personnel involved on the project were Owen James, Shane Thompson, Graham Lang, Twyla Kowalczyk, Jaimie Sokalski, Craig MacDonald, and Tanner Hudson.

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