Industry Trends: The Challenges of Working Around Buried Utilities

Designing large-diameter gravity sewer interceptors is challenging enough on its own, but there are often additional complications that can make completing these designs even more difficult: avoiding buried utilities. Try as we might, sometimes buried utilities can come as a surprise to the design engineer due to inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise missing information concerning the location and depth of those facilities and more often than not, it is revenue-generating high-pressure gas lines and fiber optic cables. When this happens, the design engineer needs to be particularly resourceful in developing plans that mitigate, manage, and avoid these underground conflicts.

What makes this such a challenging problem is that the onus is on the design engineer to come up with an affordable and reasonable solution instead of making the utility company move their lines or cables. Utility relocations can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and a major component of that expense is due to lost revenues for buried gas mains and fiber optic cables – a prospect that is not desired by either design firm or municipality.  This is why the design engineer must figure out how to work around these buried utilities to minimize project costs to the municipality or the engineering firm. Careful management of all available utility information and persistent utility data tracking along with practical and creative design solutions are critical components of a successful pipeline project.

While buried utilities often complicate large-diameter gravity sewer interceptor designs by creating unanticipated challenges, skillful design engineers like those who work at RJN Group, Inc. use ingenuity and expertise to develop and apply safe, effective design solutions that manage, mitigate, and avoid these underground conflicts and minimize costs to their firm and their clients.

To learn more about this engaging topic, come to the Underground Construction Technology (UCT) International Conference & Exhibition at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, and visit the presentation “Interceptor Design Challenges Working Around Buried Utilities” in Track 1C from 11 AM to 11:25 AM, presented by RJN Engineers Chris Brooks, P.E., and Amanda Gentry, E.I.T.