Before we created the Autocase family of TBL-CBA software, our team of economists, along with engineers and architects conducted numerous custom assessments as consultants. Our collective knowledge is now reflected in Autocase, but, we have to admit, there were some moments along the way when we were caught off-guard and ran into some tricky traps: practices, policies and thinking that […]

Number 10 in our TBL-CBA traps series (and the last one). 10. Mixing Nominal and Real All the costs, benefits and discount rate should be either in nominal (current year) dollars or real (constant) dollars. Don’t mix real dollars and nominal discount rates or vice versa. Most economists recommend being real and staying real (man). That said, the preference for […]

Number 9 in our TBL-CBA traps series. 9.      Ignoring the Vast Collection of Ecosystem Services Research A lot of smart people have spent a lot of time over the last two decades putting values on ecosystem goods and services (e.g. clean air, fresh water, habitat protection). There has been an explosion of research and growing consensus and convergence in these […]

Number 8 in our TBL-CBA traps series. 8.      Muddying the Waters between Impacts and Benefits Impact analysis captures the overall output and income resulting from a project i.e. “400 local jobs created” or “an increase of $3M in GDP”. But this is not cost-benefit analysis. Impact analysis is often a marketing exercise intended to curry favor with those whose stamp […]

Number 7 in our TBL-CBA traps series. 7.      Tolerating False Precision The results are in – the Net Present Value is $101.234567 million (exactly) – let’s go! But wait…what if the risk associated with that number is +/- $200 million? How do you feel now? Is the project still a go? Robust TBL-CBA methodologies employ risk analysis so that all […]

Number 6 in our TBL-CBA traps series. 6.       Assuming it is Difficult and Expensive With standardized inputs, methodology and outputs, cost-effective automation of TBL-CBA is possible. While there will be people who will feel better paying $50,000-250,000 for a bespoke TBL-CBA study, don’t let anyone talk you into a custom study until they have told you what they will be […]

Number 5 in our TBL-CBA traps series. 5.      Asking “Are We Doing the Right Project?” but Forgetting “Are We Doing the Project Right?” Once the project has been greenlighted, a million and one design decisions remain to be made by engineers, architects, sustainability professionals, planners, project manager, and designers that determine what exactly gets built and how. TBL-CBA should be […]

Number 4 in our TBL-CBA traps series.  4.      Letting the Loudest Voice Win While the TBL-CBA analysis often points out trade-offs between people, planet and profits and highlights distributional effects across affected stakeholder groups, don’t fall into the trap of implicitly weighting one group or sector more than another.  Cost-benefit analysis does the weighting for you. For example, a quantity […]

Number 3 in our TBL-CBA traps series. 3. Double Counting By avoiding the trap of being too narrow, people often fall into this trap. In particular, benefits are more likely to be double counted than costs. Take, for example an infrastructure or building project that lowers the cost of a product for consumers. There will also be a rise in […]

Number 2 in our series of TBL-CBA traps. 2. Forgetting Certain (Increasingly Vocal) Stakeholders When conducting a Triple Bottom Line – Cost Benefit Analysis (TBL-CBA), a common trap is thinking too narrowly about the project. By definition, a triple bottom line approach avoids thinking only in financial terms – the narrowest thinking of all. Assigning a dollar value to environmental […]