Demand for utility tracing

In the first 6 months of 2011 Phase SI have noticed a significant increase, both in quotes and actual jobs, in the demand for utility tracing surveys. This may in part reflect our growing reputation for offering quality, cost-effective survey options but it also seems to indicate an increasing number of project starts within the construction industry. Our workload has seen increases in every level of utility survey. From ‘borehole clearance’ through to detailed mapping projects.

Here at Phase SI we strive to make our clients aware of the range of utility tracing survey options that there are available and so were very pleased when The Survey Association (TSA) brought out its guidelines on best practice for carrying out and commissioning utility surveys. These guidelines highlight the fact that there are different levels of survey and will hopefully lead to a better understanding of what is involved in a utility tracing survey and what the different types of survey can achieve. By specifying a particular level of survey that meets their specific project needs a client can be sure that they are getting the service that they require and that any quotes they receive will be based on a level playing field.

Phase SI have always provided a range of survey options and we are now categorising these in accordance with the terminology in the guidelines. The most common types of survey that we quote for are a Level 4 survey, which involves radio frequency location (RFL) and ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning or ‘mark-out’, and a Level 6 survey, which involves RFL and a detailed or recorded GPR survey. A Level 4 survey gives results in real-time on site whilst a Level 6 survey requires the data to be processed off site. The former is quicker whilst the latter is deemed to be more reliable in certain circumstances but often costs slightly more.

Obviously because of the health and safety implications cost shouldn’t be the driving factor when locating buried services but there are numerous sites where a Level 4 survey can be effective, such as where service record drawings are available and where apparatus routes are not thought to be complex. For complex sites and those where record information is limited then a Level 6 survey should be the preferred option. Phase SI recommend that a client either specifies what level of survey or ask what level of survey a quote is based on and confirm what the strengths and limitations of the survey will be.