Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sustainability Performance Measurement Framework for PFI Projects in the UK - 2014 Outstanding Paper Award

Congratulations to Esra Kurul (Senior Lecturer in REC), Ramin Keivani (Reader in REC) and Lei Zhou (Lecturer at Northumbria University and a former PhD student in REC). Together they wrote the following paper for the Journal of Financial Management of Property and Construction and have won the Outstanding Paper Award for 2014. The paper was based on the PhD work carried out by Lei Zhou (who was also the lead author on the paper) when he was a student in the Department of REC at Oxford Brookes. 

The full paper is available to view free of charge on the Emerald Insight website for the next 12 months. The following is an extract from the abstract, introduction and conclusion - you can view the full paper here: Sustainability Performance Measurement Framework for PFI Projects in the UK.

The relationship between sustainable development and private finance initiative (PFI) procurement systems is clarified, and the current debate on the effectiveness of PFI in the UK and the benefits of PFI to deliver sustainable construction is reviewed. The study develops a sustainability assessment framework encompassing environmental, economic, social and technical aspects through the life cycle of the procurement process. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Achieving sustainable development is a fundamental challenge for society worldwide. Managing sustainability holistically is exigent, thus requiring a framework that integrates environmental and social performance with economic and technical performance.

This study aims to assist PFI decision-makers who wish to integrate the sustainability agenda into their projects throughout the infrastructure's life cycle. In addition, it makes a contribution to understanding of different dimensions of sustainability and the debate on sustainability indicator framework, particularly, in the context of sustainable construction. In this regard the literature review of sustainability indicators draws together a conceptual framework which has the potential to evaluate the holistic sustainability performance of existing PFI projects. Data collected through a national questionnaire survey populates this framework and facilitates examination of sustainability performance in the PFI industry. Benchmarking and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the future PFI projects are thus identified.

This study developed a conceptual framework for sustainability assessment for PFI projects which has been termed as SPFI framework. According to this framework achieving sustainable development in PFI projects requires balancing three bottom lines: social, economic and environmental. In addition, it requires the inclusion of sustainable technology development. The suggested SPFI framework lies at the cross-section of these four dimensions and contains 28 indicators. The new systemic indicator framework will enable the PFI projects to go beyond the certification system and towards a more sustainable process. It is capable of providing a better assessment of various types of PFI buildings and infrastructure performance through the whole life procurement process.

A questionnaire survey was conducted to validate the framework and a five-point Likert type scale system is used to measure the sustainability performance level of existing PFI projects. Survey results suggested that there is strong demand for sustainability in PFI projects and SPFI framework is a useful tool to measure PFI sustainability performance. PFI can make contribution to social and economic sectors and there is potential to improve environmental performance. However, due to the nature of private funding and the extra investment needed in renewable technologies, the adaption of innovative technologies such as the PV system will be limited unless there are some financial incentives to foster the diffusion of those renewable technologies.

Based on the survey results, KPIs and benchmarking are developed for measuring sustainability performance in future PFI projects. The KPIs are “care of end-users, whole life costing, health and safety, capital cost, energy consumption during operation and low maintenance cost”.

The application of the framework proposed in this paper, however, is not limited to PFI projects but is also applicable to other types of PPP projects. Moreover, similar to sustainable development, it is not an end product, but an on-going process. Many indicators (particularly the technical indicators) will change due to rapid development and growth of low carbon technologies and innovation research.

For more information about the paper, please contact the corresponding author, Lei Zhou.

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