Subsurface Utility Engineering
Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) involves tasks that help increase the understanding of various underground utilities for utility owners, project owners, contractors, designers and engineers.
What is subsurface utility engineering?
This branch of engineering involves managing specific risks related to utility mapping at set quality levels, and functions such as:
• Utility relocation design & coordination.
• Utility coordination.
• Utility condition assessment.
• Utility relocation cost estimates.
• Communication ofutility data to all the concerned parties, implementation of utility accommodation policies and utility design.
• Addressing construction issues.
• Avoiding and resolving utility conflicts.
The accurate underground utilities’ mapping information that is provided by subsurface utility engineers allows clients to make well-informed decisions, avoid expensive project delays or conflicts and eliminate risk. Subsurface utility engineering is applied right across the project lifecycle from the conceptualization phase, design and right through to the actual construction and finalization.
The benefits of subsurface utility engineering
There are a number of benefits to SUE such as:
The appropriate use of this service helps eliminate utility problems often encountered on these projects, such as:
• Delays to the project caused by waiting for the utility relocation work to be completed so the construction can commence.
• Delays to the project caused by redesigning when the original designcan’t be followed due to certain unexpected utility conflicts.
• Delays to the contractors during the construction phase, caused by damaging, cutting, or discovering utility lines and systemsthat hadn’t been identified earlier.
• Claims by the contractor for a delay resulting from unexpected problems with utilities.
• Property damage, deaths, injuries and release of products into the environment caused by severing utility lines that weren’t known to be there.
Subsurface utility engineering has to follow certain standards of care.
The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) has developed a crucial standard of care guideline-Standard Guideline for Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data, CI/ASCE 38-02. This particular guideline describes 4 distinct quality levels for utility depiction:
• Quality Level D- The information derived from oral recollections or records.
• Quality Level C- The information obtained while surveying and plotting any visible above-ground utility elements; and by utilizing professional judgment in connecting this information to the Quality Level D.
• Quality Level B- Any information obtained via application of the correct surface geophysical techniques to determine the presence and approximate horizontal position of the subsurface utilities.
• Quality Level A- Information that has obtained by measuring and exposing the precise vertical and horizontal position of a utility at any specific point.
What is a subsurface utility engineer?
The subsurface utility engineeris involved in tasks thatincrease the understanding of different underground utilities for utility owners, contractors, project owners, designers as well as engineers. The solutions that a subsurface utility engineer provides are focused on:
• Providing utility owners appropriate solutions for their utility system needs.
• Implementation of new systems.
• Upgrading, repairing, expanding/extending existing systems.
• Relocating utility facilities because of roadway improvements.
• Detection of voids in dams
• Detection of bedrock, soil profiles and buried boulders
• Boundaries of abandoned landfills
• Locates rebars, conduits and voids in concrete
• Profiles: tower and building
• Detection of the water table
• Sedimentation studies
• Examining damaged foundations
Duties that a municipal engineer performs
Many subsurface utility engineers will have worked with state, county and local governments and have experience with policy development and implementation functions. Aside from this, an SUE engineer has extensive experience in negotiating and coordinating with utility companies, governments (specifically transport departments) consulting and engineering firms. The work process they follow typically includes:
• The SUE engineer will start the project with an initial investigation.
• Their work plan package includes the scope of work, project schedule levels of service vs. the risk allocation, and needed project delivery method.
• Once the base plans have been produced, comprehensive coordination begins, including negotiations with all stakeholders.
• They using a conflict matrix to efficiently compare and evaluate depicted designating information with the proposed plans (drainage, highway, bridge and other).
• They will inform all stakeholders of the potential conflicts, possible resolutions & costs to cure.
• The data management functions include surveying, designating & locating information related to project control; this information will then be transferred into the client’s project plans, GIS files or CADD system.
• At the close of the project the engineer will follow up with all the post-design utility coordination aspects.
Systems and tools that drainage engineers use
Today, highly advanced technology and tools are available for use in subsurface utility engineering projects. Most companies that handle these projects usethe latest ground-penetrating radar systems that have the capacity to detect man-made and natural, non-metallic and metallic features such as:
• Storage tanks
• Voids and sinkholes
• Water tables
• Land mines and graves
• Buried artifacts
3-D Underground Imaging is used in locating underground utilities. These also help provide vertical data without the necessity of digging test holes. This technology can also locate various other non-utility structures that have the potential to impact these projects; the devices be configured to the needed specifications.
A mix of traditional techniques and cutting edge surveying and mapping technology such as global positioning systems, CADD for data integration & evaluation and geographic information systems are used to collect accurate data and carry out the mapping in an expert manner.
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