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Subsurface Utility Engineering

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is an engineering process that has evolved considerably over the past few decades. It has been used primarily by State transportation departments (DOTs), local highway agencies, utility companies, and highway design consultants. The SUE process combines civil engineering, surveying, and geophysics. It utilizes several technologies, including vacuum excavation and surface geophysics. Its use has become a routine requirement on highway projects in many states.
SUE began in the early 1980s. Traditional methods of dealing with subsurface utilities were not working. It was common practice to design projects without consideration of any utilities and to then deal with them during construction. This resulted in many unnecessary utility relocations, construction delays, and unexpected encounters with subsurface utilities. It seemed possible that two relatively new technologies, air/vacuum excavation and surface geophysics, could be combined to gather data on the exact location of subsurface utilities early in the development of projects.
(Source: Paul Scott (2005), "SUE Then and Now", Presented at Damage Prevention Conference, Dallas, Texas)

Pipeline Locating Technologies:

Sub-surface Utility Engineering (SUE) identifies, locates, maps, and analyzes a range of information to accurately ascertain the location of buried pipes. Since most pipes are buried and generally inaccessible, planning for renewal activities is extremely difficult. Any differences in “as-planned” and “as-built” location of pipes can cause accidental damage to pipes by third parties. Damage to underground utilities has been identified as one of the most dangerous problems for the construction industry, and the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) identified damage to underground utilities as the third most important problem for contractors. Accurately locating pipes will ensure more confident planning and management. A more recent and comprehensive definition by the American Society of Civil Engineers in a pending document “Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data” is as follows: A branch of engineering practice that involves managing certain risks associated with: utility mapping at appropriate quality levels, utility coordination, utility relocation design and coordination, utility condition assessment, communication of utility data to concerned parties, utility relocation cost estimates, implementation of utility accommodation policies, and utility design.

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