Knowledge CentreTechnical Resources SearchConference PapersSubsurface Utility Engineering (SUE): Avoiding 4 Potential Pitfalls to Ensure a Successful Program

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE): Avoiding 4 Potential Pitfalls to Ensure a Successful Program


One of the biggest challenges that can arise during the design phase of an infrastructure project is
achieving an accurate picture of subsurface utilities within the defined area. Often, data provided
to project managers, engineers and designers is outdated, inaccurate or unavailable. As a result,
projects may require costly redesign and utilities can be damaged during excavation. For this
reason, the practice of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is gaining momentum across the
country and abroad for infrastructure projects both big and small.
Developed and refined over the last 20 years, SUE provides a system to classify the quality of
data associated with existing subsurface utilities which dramatically improves information
reliability. It begins with a work plan that outlines the scope of work, project schedule, levels of
service vs. risk allocation and desired delivery method.
Non-destructive geophysical methods are then leveraged to determine the presence of subsurface
utilities and to mark their horizontal position on the ground surface. Vacuum
excavation techniques are often employed to expose and record the precise horizontal and
vertical position of the assets. This information is then typically presented in CAD format or a
GIS-compatible map. A conflict matrix is also created to evaluate and compare collected utility
information with project plans, identify conflicts and propose solutions.
While SUE is gaining popularity worldwide as a framework to mitigate risk associated with
project redesign, construction delays and damaged utilities, many organizations struggle to
implement an effective SUE program. This can threaten accountability and open municipalities,
engineers and project managers to further risk. This paper would seek to demystify the SUE
process and provide readers with practical information for implementing a successful SUE
program. It would also:
 Provide a historical overview of the evolution of SUE and its many applications  Describe how SUE fits into the overall design process  Eliminate grey areas around the standards that govern SUE, including U.S. standard ASCE 38-02 and the more recent Canadian Standards Association (CSA) S250 Mapping of Utility Infrastructure  Walk readers through the key elements of a successful SUE program. This includes adhering to the four quality levels outlined by ASCE 38-02, leveraging the right nondestructive technology and excavation techniques and applying best practices for collecting and mapping data  Offer real-world case study examples of organizations including Stantec, Hatch Mott MacDonald and municipalities that have successfully implemented the SUE process on major projects

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Utilities Management - Past Present Future
Vine, K.
Construction, Maintenance and operations