Assessing the ability of integrated decision making to improve Canadian municipal infrastructure sustainability
University of New Brunswick
A major contributor to the well-being of Canadian societies is municipal infrastructure. The state of existing Canadian municipal infrastructure is the overarching problem addressed in this research. A major barrier in achieving a solution however, as identified in the literature, consists of infrastructure industry fragmentation. This research focused on establishing an integration strategy consisting of a multidisciplinary approach to municipal decision making for improving the overall sustainability performance of existing municipal infrastructure. This integration strategy addresses the sustainability performance of the following six types of municipal infrastructure: Energy, Parks & Recreation, Solid Waste, Transportation, Urban Forestry, and Water & Wastewater. The hypothesis for this research proposal is therefore as follows: Integrated decision-making improves the sustainability performance of existing municipal infrastructure. This research was conducted on medium sized Canadian population centres (30,000 to 99,999 in population) using a Mixed-Methods Approach: Sequential Explanatory Strategy research methodology. A preliminary investigation of municipal authorities and the sustainability principles, priorities and goals within the 54 medium population centres across Canada was conducted. Two survey questionnaires, sent to infrastructure industry authorities within municipalities across Canada, further investigated these findings and established current decision-making processes and an understanding of opinions on multidisciplinary decision-making. These surveys also provided the information needed to develop the assessment framework for the sustainability performance of existing infrastructure and the level of integration and inclusion within the municipalities’ decision-making process. This framework was initially tested through a pilot case study and subsequently validated through three case studies within the Atlantic, British Columbia, and Alberta regions. These three case studies were assessed independently and the final results for sustainability performance (10 signifying highest performance) and decision making integration and inclusion (1 signifying highest performance) were as follows: The case study with the highest total average sustainability performance score (8.00) also received the highest level of decision making integration (1.25) and inclusion (1.42), while the case study with the lowest total average sustainability performance score (6.86) also received the lowest score in integration (2.3) and inclusion (2.0). The findings presented in this research therefore suggest that integrated decision-making can improve the sustainability performance of existing municipal infrastructure.