Control Point News


Imagine this: A large scale construction company is contracted to build a new apartment complex across the street from a school. The final paperwork goes through, the budget was agreed upon, the building design has already hit the press, and initial work has begun. While digging, the construction company representative strikes a natural gas line hidden below the surface. The company believed they were in the clear based on records they obtained from the county from the early 1990’s, and they called 811 to double check the location of what they thought were the underground utilities. Unfortunately, what both records and the results from 811 did not show was the change of direction just below where the excavator struck the ground.

Let’s take a look closer at this scenario and how this could have been prevented if subsurface utility engineering was utilized.

1. Safety

The construction company followed all the safety procedures required however, still put community members, as well as their field crew on site in danger due to inaccurate utility records.  Those at the site had to clear the property, the surrounding civilians, have the police and fire departments come out and block off the neighborhood blocks around the construction area, and evacuate the students from the school.  Not only does the construction company get the bad reputation in the press and do damage control from that angle, but they also now have to coordinate with both the firemen and police in ensuring the location is safe before they can resume workflow.

How could have the construction company avoided this disaster?

By utilizing Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), the change in direction of the natural gas line would have been identified much sooner; this would have prevented the excavator from striking the utility, would have solidified the safety of their workers and community members, and not have had the municipalities intervein.

1. Cost Saving

Budgets are a huge concern when doing any project.  It is one of the driving factors to either have a project move forward or held up. The construction company mapped out every expense, from the wages of their workers, and the cost of supplies, all the way to the revenue they could make from the completion of this project. When the natural gas line was struck, all their planning and budgeting was obsolete. Now they have project delays, additional costs including the cost to have the utility fixed and relocated, and substantial in any profit made after the completion of the project.

How could the construction company have avoided this disaster?

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is an effective way for cost saving projects and assists in meeting  projected deadlines. SUE shows accurate depictions of what lies underneath the surface of any project site. Most of the time records show that an object is a certain distance from a building that is no longer there, or an object is a certain distance from the edge of a two-lane road that is now four lanes or is part of a parking lot. Having professional and experienced SUE technicians on  job site to map out gas lines, electrical lines, water lines, sewage, and/or communication lines, eliminates the chance of striking any of these vital utilities and will effectively keep projects on time and on budget.

3. Accuracy

The construction company’s trust on old drawings/records caused their lack of knowledge of their surroundings. Existing records of underground site conditions are usually incorrect, incomplete, or otherwise inadequate because they may not have been accurate in the first place. The design drawings are not as-built,  installations were field run, and no record was ever made of actual locations. On old sites, there may have been several utility owners, architects/engineers, and contractors installing facilities and burying objects for decades in the area. Not knowing of these facts, the construction company  believed the records they had were the most up to date .  They felt the records showed all they needed to know; except we now know they did not show the gas line lurking below the dirt.

How could have the construction company avoided this disaster?

By hiring Subsurface Utility Engineering technicians, the construction company would have had accurate and real time records of the site they were digging. By using outdated information, they were not as educated of their surroundings as they could have been. SUE shows all utility lines accurately, which leaves few doubts about what lies below.

Currently, there is not much oversight or regulations in place for companies in researching the underground utilities at job locations.

Though this scenario is fictional, this type of damage happens every day to unsuspecting companies.  As the process of providing Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) services advances in technology and techniques, stricter regulations are in the works and will become more prevalent. Control Point Associates, Inc. is ahead of the trend and provides SUE to our clients.  Being able to know the exact location and depth of existing utilities helps project managers manage risk, eliminates project delays, and keeps projects on budget.

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