Subsurface Utility Investigation & Engineering

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is a discipline of civil engineering that involves the investigation of buried utilities and identifies the conflicts they may pose to a project design in order to mitigate associated risks. These risks are identified through utility owner record drawings, geophysical methods to locate a utility’s horizontal position, vacuum excavation to pinpoint the vertical position, and the survey of this data referenced into a topographic map or various other types of mapping.
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Subsurface Utility Investigation

SUE uses a series of four quality levels (QLs): QL-D involves gathering record data, which may include digital records, paper records, internet searches, or site inspection. QL-C entails surveying visible above-ground utility features, such as manholes, valve boxes, utility marker posts, and more. This information is then correlated with existing utility records. QL-B determines the existence and horizontal position of underground utilities using surface geophysical techniques. This level also includes obtaining two-dimensional mapping information, which aids in decision-making for design, utility relocations, and installations. QL-A is the highest and most effective SUE level presently available. Non-destructive digging equipment is used to determine the precise horizontal and vertical position of underground utilities. When surveyed and mapped, precise plan and profile information is available for design decisions and justification. QLs are used to convey the level of confidence and the methods employed to determine a utility’s position. Once the QL has been determined, the SUE work has been performed, and a computer-aided design (CAD) file has been created depicting the best-known position of the utilities, a conflict matrix is produced to determine if utility relocation is needed for the project to be successful. Identifying the risks, including conflicts, in the matrix before a project starts is vital to the planning and design phases of a project.
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