Managing the World’s Greatest Linear Asset

May 23, 2014

Maintaining the condition of the 13,171 mile long Great Wall of China is no easy task.  Much of the Wall has fallen to disrepair since its creation more than 2,000 years ago, and as a result, a great deal of the wall is closed off to visitors due to high structural risks and safety concerns. In the past few years, major sections of the Great Wall have been renovated and repaired in the hopes of making the sections accessible for tourists.

Great Wall Linear Asset

Image Source: http://www.china-mike.com/china-tourist-attractions/great-wall-china/

One of the most fantastic details about the Great Wall exists in its construction, which began around 221 BC. The Wall was intended as a fortification, and millions of soldiers and common people made up the work force. Since then, many new sections of the wall have been built. The section of the Wall created during the Ming dynasty in the 14th century continues to stand thanks to its unique construction elements. Ming engineers used sticky rice in the Wall’s mortar; the rice chemically bonded with the slaked lime, making the Wall so tight that weeds are still unable to grow in some parts.

How is such a colossal structure maintained?

As one would imagine, much of the Great Wall has been damaged by weather and overall wear over its 2,000-year lifespan. According to the Telegraph article, The Great Wall of China is Falling Down, “as much as 80 per cent of the structure lies in ruins, all but demolished by prospectors mining for minerals” in some areas. Not only has mining taken quite the toll on the national treasure, but also the lack of regulation and protection of the Wall. Local governments are asked to report on their section of the Wall each year and in turn receive funding from the central government, depending on their level of damage. Though this process helps to repair the sections of the Wall that are severely damaged, it does not help to provide regular maintenance work the Wall needs to survive.

great wall site linear asset

Image Source: http://www.china-history.net/The_Great_Wall.htm

How could this process be improved?

Managing a linear asset of this size and age is difficult. If the local governments had a standardized system for assessing the Wall’s condition and a centralized database in which to enter this data, the federal government could get a much more accurate and manageable view of the entire asset’s funding needs. Collecting, tracking, and analyzing data on site linear assets generates a holistic understanding of the deferred maintenance picture and allows for consideration of site linear assets when developing a capital budget.

Implementing a programmatic approach to assessment and data analysis would make it possible to identify the necessary maintenance for all the different sections of the Great Wall and create a budget accordingly. And even though technology has much to offer in managing the Wall today, we still have much to learn from the Wall’s ancient architects and engineers. Creating a 13,170.69 mile long structure that stands 2,000 years later will forever cause facility managers around the world to marvel.

Read more about the benefits of including site linear assets in a condition assessment and in considering that data alongside facility data to enable a holistic view of deferred maintenance costs and development of an accurate capital plan and budget.

One Response to “Managing the World’s Greatest Linear Asset”

  1. Robert Dodd says:

    Nicely done Alison; and a great read.

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