Underground utilities: What you don’t know WILL cost you!

Apr - 01

Underground utilities: What you don’t know WILL cost you!

Using Subsurface Utility Engineering to map obstructed and concealed utilities matters. Studies confirm and experts agree- that utility strikes and accidents are the leading cause of job site delays and over-expenditures.


Maps are the first stage in any planning process- topographic maps, boundary and ROW maps. But do you have a current map of buried utilities? If the answer is ‘no,’ then we can tell you that what you don’t know about what’s waiting below the surface of your project site is what’s most likely to cost you in delays, redesigns, and- in a worst case scenario- emergency mitigation, repairs, lost time, and expensive liability for utility damage.

With a project review by a qualified Subsurface Utility Engineering firm, what you get is a complete and accurate utility conflict matrix. Your project designers will be able to start their process with detailed information to determine which utility relocation tasks have to be prioritized before the project is undertaken, and which are critical to address during project execution.

What Subsurface Utility Engineering can locate without breaking ground:
  • Storage/Water/Septic tanks
  • Concrete structures
  • Buried manholes
  • Water and sewer lines
  • Abandoned utilities and vaults
  • Communication fiber and other utility ducts
  • Unmarked gravesites

Ground Penetrating Radar works quickly and without excavation.


Like any thorough survey approach, Subsurface Utility Engineering starts with a complete review of existing documents and historical mapping- but the real picture comes from the technology that these specialized survey technicians use in the field. Triple scanning ground penetrating radar (GPR) gives you the clearest view of just what you CAN’T see, and the service is completed with minimal additional time or expense. These detailed images create accurate 2D and 3D models of the subsurface infrastructure without the need for excavation or geotechnical borings- especially useful when working in confined spaces or heavily trafficked areas.

Not only does Subsurface Utility Engineering give you the best ‘road’ map to begin with, RE&LS supplements its subsurface utility engineering services with PACP-certified pipe inspection to deliver detailed digital images from inside pipelines to locate problems that can add time and headache to your design development and construction operations, including:

  • Pipeline blockages
  • Pipe wall cracks or collapses
  • Root intrusions
  • Crossbores

For these pipe inspections, push rod style video inspection systems (micro and mini-systems) are designed for laterals and inside pipes 1 ½” to 4”). As the name implies, these systems are manually pushed down the line by the contractor. The range on these units is limited to 200 feet at the maximum. The line size is approximately 1 1/2 inch on the small end and 12 inch on the high end.* Pipe size is limited by how far you can push, and amount of light necessary to get a usable picture.

Main line push rod systems are designed for 3” to 12” lines when flexibility to negotiate traps is needed.  Main line systems that are mostly straight and with turns of a maximum of 45 degrees can also be inspected by a tethered robotic crawler equipped with a camera with recording capabilities.

*Results are dependent on site conditions, and must be evaluated by a PACP certified inspector before inspections are conducted

Subsurface Utility Engineering provides clear data on trouble spots including pipe blockages, root intrusions, crossbores, and more.


The benefits of utility mapping aren’t confined to ground-up construction projects anymore. You will find our technicians using their electro-magnetic (EM) locating equipment on building and utility rehabilitation/renovation projects, where utility maps may be incomplete or out of date. Finding the utility runs inside of walls, buried in concrete floors, or lost under layers of past construction additions gives you the same time- and cost-saving benefits to avoid potential strikes that could endanger the project or crew’s safety.

Think skipping the cost of Subsurface Utility Engineering is worth it in the long run? Estimates put the value of investing in Subsurface Utility Engineering at $4 to every $1 spent. Add that to the reduced risk of collateral damage to facilities, structures, and crew (for which you, the contractor, is liable)- it makes spending on Subsurface Utility Engineering a smart way to insure your project’s value from the start.

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