Subsurface Utility Engineering

Subsurface Utility Engineering (S.U.E.) is a combination of technology needed to increase the reliability of utility detection in terms of the size, depth, and pipeline materials that can be detected and exposed without incidence.

S.U.E. is a viable solution to the far too common “hits” to underground utility lines. Subsurface Utility Engineering is an all-around better method of locating subsurface utilities or buried cables. This field has grown increasingly popular, and is now being mandated by several federal and state highway administrations.

Advantages of using SSC Subsurface Utility Engineering Services:

  • Fewer conflicts with utilities
  • Reduce delays because of unforeseen conflicts and design changes
  • Elimination of added construction costs because unexpected utility adjustments
  • Fewer contractor claims based on utility delays
  • Chance of severing a utility line is greatly reduced and therefore the safety level is increased

S.U.E. Services Offered By SSC:

Data Analysis

Once a job has been negotiated and accepted, our project manager analyzes the data as provided by existing records or oral recollections. Necessary data is provided by the engineering staff and the S.U.E. Analysts and Surveyors are briefed as to what to expect on-site.

Designation & Location

Utility designation is the use of geophysical techniques to determine the existence and approximate location of existing underground utilities. SSC services may include records research, paint markings, traffic control, and field sketches. Surveying work is done utilizing benchmarks and necessary tie-ins are made to relate the project with real world coordinates.

SSC Boring location services include vacuum excavation (potholing service) which is used to create 0.3 to 0.5 m diameter holes to physically confirm the position and depth of an underground utility. A hole is first cut in the road pavement using a rotary core drill and then the excavation is advanced using compressed air jets in conjunction with a vacuum excavator wand. The excavation process will not normally damage an existing utility and the hole in the street pavement is kept to a minimum and is easily repaired. This procedure can only be used to confirm the position of known utilities or previously located utilities.

Evaluation & Reporting

Involves surveying the utility information obtained by designating and locating to the project control. Data is electronically collected in the field, processed, checked, and provided to clients in CAD or GIS format.

Modern utility mapping techniques that can be layered and detailed are utilized to produce base maps customized to client specific design requirements. They provide simple comparison of data for different pipelines and topography.

To create utility maps, survey information is converted into computer-generated plots in CADD format. Designation and location data is used to create a subsurface utility overlay of the existing road design. Test hole reports are made for each test hole with a computer-generated sketch of the test hole location and all other pertinent information to form a concise, informative data sheet for the utility, geographically referenced to the county Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A geographically accurate base map makes it easier to maintain the accuracy of a utility location as new jobs are designed and completed.

SSC provides state-of-the-art data management methods that allow a rapid interface between a field crew and a multi-utility database including:

  • Easy updating of utility records with new locating information
  • Field alerts as to discrepancies between expected positions of utilities and field measurements
  • Graphical displays of utility layouts in field based on most current information

Based on these factors and others, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has recognized Subsurface Utility Engineering as a professional engineering service and a necessary part of highway construction. This field has grown incrementally in the past few years and, by all indications, will continue to grow for years to come.