Some of the biggest liabilities threatening construction projects today lie buried meters beneath our feet. Underground utilities and other subsurface assets cause huge headaches for project managers when poor records keeps crews blind to older assets that may have been added or abandoned over time without proper documentation.
To avoid potential cost overruns and project delays, many are turning to new locating tools and practices that make these problems a thing of the past.
Municipal construction projects aimed at improving infrastructure are often some of the most expensive public works programs carried out by municipalities of all sizes.
This financial burden is only made worse by the often-unnecessary relocation of underground utilities during the planning stages of utility operations. When it comes to projects affecting large swaths of city land, decisions like these are usually the result of convenience rather than financial efficiency.
The economic impact of these large-scale projects is estimated to be in the billions of dollars each year.
Ease of use, new equipment, and exciting research are all part of a new article featured in the RFID Journal shedding light on the newest iteration of the InfraMarker system.
For a look into the new and improved RFID-enabled solution to asset management, here’s a brief synopsis of the article highlighting the key takeaways.
To read the article in its entirety, simply scroll down to the link at the bottom of the post.
With 2013 coming to a close, we look to the new year to find new and innovative ways to improve subsurface utility locating.
With new technologies adding extra layers of convenience, accuracy, and safety to the task of finding and mapping buried assets, 2014 may be a time of change for many utility companies and contractors finding themselves tightening their belts and looking for cost effective alternative solutions moving forward.
We’ve compiled five of the top trends utility companies will be interested in most when they look to improve their processes in the future.
Photo courtesy of the Damage Prevention Professional Library
The subsurface utility industry has more or less kept itself satisfied with the same technological tools for decades.
Although the tried and true methods for asset location and marking have proved useful to utility agencies and public works technicians over the years, its effectiveness has recently come under scrutiny as newer tools are giving utility workers a measurably more accurate and cost-effective way to manage their utility assets.
Tracer wire systems are one of the premier systems utilized by utility technicians to establish a system for locating buried assets. From a technical perspective, the system is relatively simple: copper wire is laid under the surface near buried utilities. When the asset’s location is needed, technicians use a simple signal and receiver system that detects the electromagnetic signals produced by the buried conductive wire.
Utility companies, public agencies and a variety of contracting services use devices equipped with electromagnetic pipe detection (EPD) technology to find the signals given off by the tracer wire. When a wire is identified, excavation crews can then begin extraction operations to service or remove the asset.
Wood pipelines like this one are still used in some parts of America. (Photo provided from the Damage Prevention Professional Library)
The problem of an aging national utility infrastructure might be a novel idea to the general public, but certainly not to those who have worked in the underground utility industry during the past decade.
While municipal utility systems operate under the constant threat of a terrorist attack aimed at disrupting the population’s water or gas supply, a more impending threat exists from the simple fact that many of our country’s underground assets are functioning well beyond their intended lifespans.
For some communities, this threat has become reality. Incidents such as exploding water mains have already led to water restrictions for almost 2 million people stemming from a single incident. With these sorts of problems plaguing local municipalities nationwide, many local and state governments are finally realizing that the stakes are far too high to gamble with anymore.
Photo provided from the Damage Prevention Professional Library
Those tasked with regularly locating subsurface utilities have long struggled to address the problems associated with disorganization, mainly due to insufficient locating techniques.
With the emergence of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) however, the previously haphazard recordkeeping and location practices were largely replaced by fundamentally different methods of mapping underground assets.
The new system uses elements of surveying, geophysics, and civil engineering in conjunction with one another to radically boost the accuracy of facility location services in order to minimize the kinds of digging errors which led to senseless damage and costs for utility companies.
There’s no doubt SUE has become a standardized system of underground asset location over the 20 years it has evolved. Today, it’s utilized by federal, state, and local utility agencies in addition to the multitude of contractors, design consultants, and private utility companies interested in investing their resources in the effectiveness the system has provided.
Damage to a gas pipeline caused this blaze. (Photo provided from the Damage Prevention Professional Library)
There are certain things that, no matter how often they happen, we should never accept without question.
Accidental death and injury fit into this category. And though none of us would ever claim to justify these things, our actions may sometimes suggest otherwise. Take, for example, the current practice of underground asset detection and digging near a buried utility.
Each year from 2002 thru 2010, approximately 15 to 20 people die from injuries just related to pipeline excavation activities. The number of pipeline incidents ranges from 255 to 338 at an average occurrence of one accidental “hit” each minute on buried utility lines.
Just in the United States, over 525,000 incidents happen annually. Statistically speaking, we have a stable system of utility accidents and fatalities. And, in addition to human cost, property damage is baffling. In 2010 alone, damages totaled $985,000,000. In 2005, the property damage from Pipeline Incidents alone topped a staggering $1.4 Billion Dollars.