About Utility Investigations
UNCERTAINTY IN THE LOCATION OF BURIED INFRACTUCTURE. The locations of existing underground utilities are uncertain once they are buried and hidden from view. This uncertainty presents risk during planning, design, construction, and operations/maintenance functions. These risk are significant. The assumption that utility owner records are complete, accurate, and available for the use of design engineers has been proven false time and time again. This is not the fault of the utility owners. They had no reason or incentive or directive to create engineering quality records of their facilities, tied to recoverable survey control.
EXISTING TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGIES. Tools used to infer the existence and position of hidden underground utilities are varied, extensive, and require professional judgment. The concepts are quite like those in the medical profession while imaging what’s in your body. X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, Inserted cameras, and other methods are used by a variety of specialists, all under the direction of the primary physician. Even then, surgery (excavation on the human body) may be required, due to the importance of the findings and its remaining uncertainties. New technologies also exist in the imaging of utilities. These will be covered in this school.
ABOUT IMPORTANCE OF COMPETENT UTILITY INVESTIGATIONS. A professional’s function is to make decisions taking into account uncertainty and risk. Underground utilities fall into this category. The American Society of Civil Engineers produces a national standard (which principles are now incorporated throughout the world) that directs the utility investigation professional how to collect, grade the uncertainty, and communicate that uncertainty. Studies by varied entities overwhelmingly show a very high Return on Investment for competent utility investigations at the right time during a project’s development.