Underground utilities can now be detected more easily with new standard

BSI, the business standards company, has collaborated with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to develop PAS 128, Specification for underground utility detection, verification and location

As the demand on the nation’s infrastructure continues to grow due to new developments, the need to replace and/or maintain existing utilities increases. It is therefore essential that accurate information about where underground utilities are actually located is available.

Historically this has been hard to achieve as the detection, verification and location of utility assets have been subject to interpretation and inaccuracies. This has led to the safety of workers and the public being put at risk, unnecessary work that has often needed to be aborted, damage to third party assets and inefficient design solutions.

PAS 128 aims to provide a clear and unambiguous provision for those engaged in the detection, verification and location of active, abandoned, redundant or unknown utilities. It is applicable to surveyors, geophysicists or subsurface utility engineers as well as engineers, constructors, project managers and utility owners who are responsible for recording information about underground utilities.

Anthony Burd, Head of Market Development for Construction at BSI said: “The application of PAS 128 is not just restricted to current solutions, but will afford as yet unrealized benefits. For example, the use of remote robotic techniques to maintain asset networks in busy highways in future to reduce the need for intrusive maintenance practices (road excavations). Similarly, accurate mapping of utility networks could improve asset modelling capabilities with more determined outcomes.”

Utility mapping would occur where ground investigation, borehole, trial pit works and other construction works are proposed. The survey conforming to PAS 128 can then be used as an indicator of the presence or absence of underground utilities before conducting further ground investigation prior to breaking ground.

Some features of PAS 128:

  • Applies to active, abandoned, redundant or unknown underground utilities in urban or rural areas
  • Sets out the accuracy/quality of the data captured and a means by which to assess confidence in it
  • Applies to utilities buried no deeper than three metres

It covers:

  • Project planning and scoping process
  • Classification system for quality levels
  • Desktop utility records search
  • Detection, verification and location

Some of the organizations involved in the collaborative development of PAS 128 include: Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited, Highways Agency, Institution of Civil Engineers, National Joint Utilities Group and Transport for London.

Richard Armstrong, Knowledge Transfer Advisor at ICE said: “This PAS sets out the accuracy to which data capture occurs, the quality of the expected data and a means by which to assess and indicate the confidence that can be placed in it. With time, education and experience of PAS 128, the result could be increased accuracy of detected utilities and associated records and thus more effective planning and safer execution of street works, civil works, ground works and utility based activities.”