New code of practice for recording data on underground utilities

BSI, the business standards company, has launched a new code of practice to transform the way data on underground utilities – such as water pipes, telephone lines, and fibre optic cables – is captured, recorded, maintained and shared.

Accurate mapping of underground utilities – also known as “buried assets” – is vital for those undertaking excavations in order to maintain service, minimize costs and comply with health and safety legislation. There are in excess of 3 million highway excavations each year – yet there is scant industry guidance for asset owners on how they might best manage and maintain these data records. This results in unnecessary excavations, causing needless environmental disturbance and inconvenience for the public.   

PAS 256, Buried assets – Capturing, recording, maintaining and sharing of location information and data – Code of practice, was created to address the variable quality, reliability and availability of existing data. Sponsored by the Institution of Civil Engineers, the PAS provides recommendations and guidance to improve the capturing, recording and maintaining of data related to buried assets, and the security-minded sharing of asset information relating to utilities’, local authorities’ and other providers’ infrastructure.

The vast network of buried assets in the UK, typically owned by utility companies and local authorities, form a key part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure. The PAS applies to buried assets located in private and public land, and the code of practice covers:

-       transition of spatial data, using relative accuracy as a minimum and moving towards absolute accuracy, (including depth) together with supporting evidence such as photographs or tagging

-       inclusion of decommissioned or abandoned assets when sharing data

-       the use of warning and protection devices to aid the final location of the buried asset

-       a target number of days to make data available for sharing from installation

-       the capture of data emanating from works carried out under s50 license or equivalent  

-       compatibility with Geography Markup language (GML)

-       the inclusion of local authority and other organizations’ buried assets

-       movement from paper or microfiche records to a structured, accessible digital format

-       symbology, typology, colour coding and layering

-       a data glossary

Ant Burd, Head of Market Development for Built Environment at BSI, said: “Needless digging wastes time and money. PAS 256 was created to make it easier for organizations to capture, record, maintain and share the location of their excavation work. Access to data is a win-win for the industry, the environment, and local residents subjected to repeated digging outside their homes or businesses.”

PAS 256 is intended to be used alongside PAS 128, Specification for underground utility defection, verification and location. PAS 128 applies to active, abandoned, redundant or unknown underground utilities and the location of their associated surface features. It specifies requirements for the detection, verification and location of existing and new underground utilities.

In addition to the Institution of Civil Engineers, the following organizations were also involved in the development of PAS 256: A Luck Associates; Aberdeenshire County Council Atkins; Centriforce Products Ltd; Civil Engineering Contractors Association; Enfield Council; Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd; Les Guest Associates; LinesearchbeforeUdig Ltd; National Joint Utilities Group; Ordnance Survey Ltd; Pitney Bowes Software; Premier Energy Services Ltd; Subscan Technology Ltd; Thames Water; TPS Consult; Transport for London; University of Birmingham, School of Engineering; and a co-opted member.

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