Lengthy delays, increased costs and potential safety hazards on construction projects can be avoided by adopting a process to manage subsurface utility infrastructure.
Accurately pinpointing the infrastructure lying beneath a construction site continues to be a problem for project owners, utility owners, design engineers and building contractors. These issues still occur as there is no rulebook or composite Australian Standard for engineers to follow when dealing with underground services.
The lack of such a rulebook means these services are generally dealt with during the construction phase rather than the design phase of a project, leading to increased delays and costs, reduced productivity and potential safety hazards.
Wood & Grieve's National Subsurface Utility Engineering Manager and Australia's foremost expert in the field, Rob Sansbury FIEAust CPEng NER RPEQ believes that adopting Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) to manage this infrastructure can drastically increase productivity and deliverability on construction projects.
"This has been proven in the countries that have already adopted SUE standards; Canada, Ecuador, UK and USA", Mr Sansbury said.
"The benefits of implementing SUE in these countries have been well documented and show savings between $3 and $12 for every $1 spent on SUE during the design process."
At its most basic level, SUE is a branch of professional engineering that involved the management of underground utilities, starting at the design stage, so that construction costs are minimised and safety outcomes are maximised.
Mr Sansbury has developed his own SUE requirements over 25 years of experience in the field, working on a variety of projects across several countries.
"Having a proven system of how to work within an environment with a significant number of subsurface utilities is critical", he said.
His team has recently completed a project for a local Queensland council involving the implementation of a new 1800mm diameter stormwater pipe.
"The pipe needed to be retrofitted into an existing residential and commercial area, interfacing with a State controlled road network", Mr Sansbury said.
"Part of the design solution involved a pipejacking across a State controlled intersection.
"Using a concerted SUE approach, with timeous interaction with all utility authorities, a suitable corridor for the works was determined and gave our client a far reduced risk profile with which they went to tender.
"The project was delivered within budget and on time."
Mr Sansbury is also the Engineers Australia representative on the Standards Australia committee upgrading the standard relating to subsurface utilities; AS 5488-2013.
He believes Australia is well behind the rest of the world in how it manages subsurface utilities as there is no 'rule book' for engineers during the design phase.
"Harsh experience has been the primary teacher of best practice for most Australian practitioners.
"Benefits relating to quality, cost, time and safety have been seen in the countries that have adopted national SUE standards and we want to see those same benefits for Australian projects", Mr Sansbury said.
Want to know more about Subsurface Utility Engineering?
Mr Sansbury is the facilitator of a short online course on SUE for design engineers, Introduction to Subsurface Utility Engineering. Visit the website to find out more.