February 16


Does your organization know the value that your natural assets provide? For many public infrastructure owners, the main focus has been on maintaining and measuring the services of the built environment. However, the natural environment has been flying under the radar, providing us with services we often take for granted.

By measuring the value and level of service that a natural asset provides, how would it compare to human-made assets? How would we measure the level of service that nature provides? The Municipal Asset Management Initiative (MNAI) has answered these questions in their new guidebook - a first for the asset management industry.

What is a Natural Asset?

In the field of asset management, an asset is defined in the ISO 55000 as such:

an item, thing or entity that has potential or actual value to an organization

For natural assets, this general definition is largely refined. In the municipal context, the MNAI defines natural assets as:

the stock of natural resources or ecosystems that is relied upon, managed, or could be managed by a municipality, regional district, or other form of local government for the sustainable provision of one or more municipal services

This definition can translate to relate to any public infrastructure owner. Put simply, a natural asset is anything not human-built providing services to or impacting the services under your jurisdiction. 

Source: MNAI

It can be anything from a single tree to a whole wetland! But how do you determine the level of service a tree can deliver to your community? First, let's talk about just what exactly is a level of service.

What is a Level of Service?

If you have been in the field of asset management for any amount of time, you have already realised that there are an incredible number of acronyms to remember. LOS is an acronym heard frequently and refers to Level of Service.

To put it simply, LOS is the quality of a service delivered by an asset owner. Often, levels of service will be separated into customer levels of service and technical levels of service. A customer level of service is the expected quality of a service. A technical level of service is the measure of what it takes to deliver that quality.

To use water as an example, a customer will be concerned with whether water will be there when they turn on the faucet. On the other hand, an infrastructure owner will instead focus on the number of breaks that occur in the water main during a certain period of time.

Levels of Service are important because they determine the quality of service that is acceptable to the customer. They also provide a measurable target for the organization to work towards and align with. As with many initiatives in asset management, levels of service grow and evolve with your organization as you learn more about your assets and expand your asset inventory.

Why Develop Level of Service for a Natural Asset?

Recently, lots of work in the municipal asset management sphere has been done to determine how much value natural assets bring to communities. For example, the City of Calgary has an in-depth tree inventory and valuation system in their Urban Forestry program that considers factors such as

  • Tree health
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Age and size
  • Aesthetics
  • Stormwater attenuation

The factors in this valuation system can also be used to determine the level of service the trees provide. For example, a customer LOS could be that a tree provides shade to sit in during the summer. In this example, the technical level of service might be the height of the tree.

By determining a level of service for the natural assets in your organization you can help ensure:

  • The value of the asset's role in service delivery is recognized
  • Budget allocation for the maintenance of the asset
  • The knowledge gained from managing the natural asset will inform future land use plans and protect the natural asset

How to Develop an LOS for a Natural Asset?

If you are interested in levels of service for natural assets in your organization, the MNAI's Developing Levels of Service for Natural Assets: A guidebook for local governments is a great place to start. icInfrastructure's very own Ian Gerritsen and our partner Sean Shephard had a hand in writing it. They provided a process for developing Customer Levels of Service for natural assets. We are glad to see the hard work of everyone on the team come together to fill a need in the asset management space!

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