How To Stop Subsurface Damage From Derailing Your Next Project

How To Stop Subsurface Damage From Derailing Your Next Project

Subsurface damage continues to plague the construction industry, however, solutions exist to mitigate these incidents and the consequent project delays, budget overruns, and injuries they cause.

The Common Ground Alliance noted a three-year upward trend in subsurface damage in its 2022 DIRT Report. According to the CGA’s data, reported damages rose from 146,038 in 2020 to 153,886 in 2021, then to 163,726 in 2022.

There’s been a 12.35% increase in damages per unit of construction spending over the same span, rising from 0.079 in 2020 to 0.091 in 2022.

Courtesy of the Common Ground Alliance's 2022 DIRT Report

“A regression analysis of consistent 2020-2022 datasets shows damages are at best flat, but more likely increasing when accounting for economic factors,” the CGA wrote. “...Reversing these trajectories is imperative to reach the 50-in-5 industry challenge.”

The CGA’s ’50-in-5’ challenge is a call to action for damage prevention stakeholders to reduce subsurface damages by 50% over the next 5 years.

The top six root causes driving nearly 76% of all reported damages have remained consistent year-over-year. These include “No notification made to 811 Center,” “Facility not marked due to locator error,” “Excavator failed to maintain clearance after verifying marks,” “Marked inaccurately due to locator error,” “Improper excavation practice not listed elsewhere,” and “Excavator dug prior to verifying marks by potholing.”

Courtesy of the Common Ground Alliance's 2022 DIRT Report

“No notification made to 811 Center” represents 24.81% (35,860) of the reported damages in 2022. 811 has been the national call-before-you dig number since the One Call system was signed into law in 2002, requiring excavators and contractors to contact their state’s 811 system before breaking ground to obtain the approximate location of buried public utilities running under their jobsites.

“Without contacting 811, the damage prevention process fails from the start,” the CGA wrote.

Subsurface damage can derail a project’s schedule, decimate a company’s budget, and endanger the lives of workers and others on or near a jobsite.

The average cost to repair the damage caused by a single utility strike is $56,000. And the average time for the repair to be completed is 2-3 months.

To address the root causes of subsurface damage, the CGA recommends that facility owners and other project clients incentivize through contractual language the consistent and effective use of 811. They also urge improved locating processes such as electronic white lining to enhance utility locating, and GIS-based utility mapping to improve communication between project stakeholders.

“Now is the time for the damage prevention industry to take decisive, bold action by embracing innovation, capitalizing on technological advancements and working together to reimagine a damage prevention process that works for all stakeholders,” wrote Magruder Lyle.

GPRS utility locating and mapping services are fully aligned with the CGA’s vision for reducing subsurface damages. Through our adherence to the industry-leading Subsurface Investigation Methodology (SIM), and our revolutionary SiteMap® facility and infrastructure management platform, we Intelligently Visualize The Built World® to keep your projects on time, your budget intact, and your people safe.

Three GPRS Project Managers conduct utility locating services.
GPRS helps you avoid subsurface damage by showing you what's buried beneath your jobsite.

How GPRS Services Reduce Subsurface Damage

The best way to reduce subsurface damage is to know what's underground before you dig.

While calling 811 should always be your first step before excavating, it’s important to remember that 811 contractors only locate public utilities. Approximately 60% of all buried utilities are private, which is why it’s imperative that you hire a professional utility locating company in addition to calling 811 to fully understand the infrastructure under your jobsite.

GPRS Project Managers have achieved and maintain a 99.8%+ accuracy rate on over 500,000 concrete scanning and utility locating jobs completed since our founding in 2001.

This unparalleled level of accuracy in our utility locating services is underpinned by our commitment to SIM.

The SIM standard specifies that a professional utility locating contractor must utilize multiple locating technologies – such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locating – to create redundancy and repeatability in their results.

Ground penetrating radar is a non-destructive imaging technology used to see within concrete or underground. A GPR scanner emits radio waves that interact with any buried items they encounter. Those interactions are picked up by the GPR scanner and displayed on a readout as a series of hyperbolas that vary in size and shape depending on the size and location of the object detected.

Highly trained utility locating specialists like our Project Managers can interpret this data to tell you what was located, and precisely where those objects are so you can avoid them during excavation.

To complement and verify our GPR findings, GPRS Project Managers also employ electromagnetic (EM) locators. These devices pick up either the passive electromagnetic signals that emanate from active utilities, or signals that can be applied to known utilities using a transmitter.

By using GPR and EM locating in concert, GPRS adheres to the SIM standard for redundancy and repeatability in our results.

All GPRS Project Managers must become SIM-certified to work in the field, which means completing 320 hours of field training and 80 hours of classroom training. Through this instruction regimen, they encounter real-world scenarios that prepare these professionals for anything they may encounter in the field.

We’re so dedicated to providing industry-leading training to our Project Managers that we built a state-of-the-art training facility complete with a 3000-square-foot post-tensioned concrete slab riddled with everything from conduit to a simulated elevator shaft. This allows our Project Managers to hone their craft in a controlled environment so that, by the time they’re on your jobsite, they’re ready to provide you with fast, actionable, accurate data about your infrastructure.

Mapping Your Data

SiteMap® (patent pending) could have been purpose-built to address the CGA’s desire for an innovative, GIS-based facility & infrastructure mapping solution.

It’s a single source of truth for all the data GPRS collects on your jobsite: the 99.8%+ accurate utility locates and concrete scans, millimeter-accurate 3D laser scans, NASSCO and SIM-certified video pipe inspections, and SIM-certified leak detections.

Most of this data is instantly uploaded into SiteMap® as soon as a GPRS Project Manager completes their work. And the best part is you can access and securely share this information with anyone you need, from your mobile device or computer, whenever you need to do so.

You receive a complimentary SiteMap® Personal subscription whenever GPRS completes a utility locate on your site.

From skyscrapers to sewer lines, GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to keep you on time, on budget, and safe.

What can we help you visualize? Click the links below to schedule a service or request a quote today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does GPRS offer same day private utility locating?

Yes, our professional Project Managers are a rapid response team, ready to provide emergency, same-day private utility locating service calls on your jobsite.

Will I need to mark out the utilities GPRS locates?

No, GPRS will locate and mark all utilities for you. We have a variety of tools and markers we can use to highlight the locations of utilities, underground storage tanks, and whatever else may be hiding beneath your jobsite.