Integration of BIM with Subsurface Utility Locating: Enhancing Construction Efficiency and Safety

Integration of BIM with Subsurface Utility Locating: Enhancing Construction Efficiency and Safety

The U.S. has millions of miles of underground utilities, many of which are poorly mapped or have outdated records.

Accurate knowledge of subsurface utilities is essential for success. The integration of Building Information Modeling (BIM) with subsurface utility locating is transforming how stakeholders, project managers, and other key personnel handle challenges and manage construction processes with safety and utility security in mind. SiteMap® (patent pending), powered by GPRS, offers a comprehensive view of the subsurface. But how do platforms like SiteMap® and BIM enhance construction safety and efficiency?

GPRS Project Managers conduct utility locating services.
Subsurface utility locating employs various technologies to detect and map underground utilities like water pipes, electrical cables, and telecommunications infrastructure.

Understanding Subsurface Utility Locating

Subsurface utility locating employs various technologies to detect and map underground utilities like water pipes, electrical cables, and telecommunications infrastructure. Accurate mapping of these utilities is vital during the planning, design, construction, and maintenance phases to prevent damage, ensure safety, and minimize disruptions.

Utility detection is critical for any project involving subsurface excavation, as it ensures success and avoids utility strikes. To achieve a thorough and safe utility locate, a private utility locating company must be used to mark and map buried facilities on private property. GPRS can detect both private and public utilities with 99.8% accuracy. Professional utility locators with proper training, multiple technologies, and field-tested methodologies are essential for accurately locating all site utilities. GPRS offers all of that and more.

GPRS offers a comprehensive list of infrastructure visualization services, including:

Private Utility Locating

65% of all on-site utilities for nearly any construction project or facility are private. This means that the 811 One Call service cannot locate them for you. GPRS offers comprehensive digital and PDF utility maps of all on-site utilities, whether public or private. These maps include detailed data, including depths. Additionally, you can export your utility data into a wide variety of drawings, maps, and models, facilitating seamless communication and collaboration on any project.

Facility Mapping

GPRS’ mission is to Intelligently Visualize The Built World®. We offer comprehensive above and below ground facility and infrastructure mapping for construction, facility management, engineering, architecture, manufacturing, and related industries. Our services include accurate 3D BIM models, 99.8% accurate utility locating and concrete imaging through GPR, NASSCO-certified Video Pipe Inspection (CCTV) reports, 2D CAD drawings via FLRPLN, Conceptual Site Models (CSM), rectified 3D photogrammetry through ProCap, and 3D virtual tours via WalkThru 3D.

Environmental Due Diligence & CSM

GPRS assists with Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), whether for due diligence before a sale or for tracking potential contamination for regulatory concerns. We offer precise utility locates that map preferential pathways for contaminants and provide detailed, 99.8% accurate Conceptual Site Models (CSM) for 3D site visualization.

UST Locating

Our SIM-certified Project Managers can easily locate and map abandoned tanks and lines, while our Mapping & Modeling team creates comprehensive maps and/or CSM of your facilities for risk mitigation and record-keeping purposes.

Utility As-Built Creation

GPRS offers a complimentary PDF, .KMZ file, and a SiteMap® Personal subscription with every outdoor utility locate. Our Project Managers use data from your utility field markings to create digital, layered utility maps within SiteMap®. Additionally, our in-house Mapping & Modeling Team can provide TruBuilt plan views and comprehensive 3D BIM or Conceptual Site Models (CSM), accurately visualizing your entire utility infrastructure to enhance communication, collaboration, and management of your project or facility.

GPRS has a service for almost any utility locating need, including:

  • Soil Boring Clearance
  • Video Pipe Inspection
  • 3D Laser Scanning
  • Concrete Scanning
  • Virtual Tours
  • Drone Imagery

And much more.

A BIM Model of a theater.
The integration of Building Information Modeling (BIM) with subsurface utility locating is transforming how stakeholders, project managers, and other key personnel handle challenges and manage construction processes with safety and utility security in mind.

Understanding Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been around since the 1970s, but it didn’t gain popularity until the 1990s. Georgia Tech Professor Chuck Eastman is often credited with developing the first BIM software, and it’s since become an essential tool in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industries.

BIM allows for easier communication and collaboration.

Multiple countries and regions are promoting the implementation of BIM in the AEC sector. For instance, the UK Government Construction Strategy (GCS) has mandated the use of 3D BIM for full collaboration on all construction projects since April 2016. BIM is also employed to reduce waste during construction and to enhance many other beneficial practices.

Although often used interchangeably, BIM and CAD are quite different. CAD is mainly a 2D drafting tool, while BIM is a 3D modeling tool that includes geometric and semantic data, such as building element types and material properties. BIM goes beyond design by enabling real-time collaboration and allowing professionals to make necessary changes to the model as needed.

BIM software offers additional capabilities due to its interlinked data, such as quantity assessments, collision checks, and the ability to generate simulation models or construction plans. This facilitates better planning and scheduling. BIM also detects clashes between components, reducing the likelihood of errors during construction. Unlike CAD, which creates 2D or 3D drawings without distinguishing between elements, BIM incorporates 4D (time) and 5D (cost) dimensions. BIM provides a realistic view of the project, incorporating real products and materials, their geometry, characteristics, and cost. Users can also embed contact information for procurement once approval is granted.

Vast libraries of products are available, allowing users to easily download elements for their projects. BIM streamlines architectural design, offering a realistic view and a smoother management process.

The Role of BIM

BIM is a collaborative process that utilizes digital representations of a facility's physical and functional characteristics to enhance planning, design, construction, and operation. It allows professionals to visualize the entire project lifecycle in a virtual environment, including potential costs.

There is a significant lack of collaboration between professionals in the AEC sector. According to a recent study by the National Institute of Standards and Testing, this lack of interoperability costs building owners $15.8 billion annually. BIM helps address this issue by enabling users to detect MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) clashes before construction begins. This reduces delays, last-minute changes, and the amount of rework required.

BIM offers numerous benefits to the construction industry, particularly when paired with subsurface utility locating, which eliminates guesswork about the subsurface and incorporates it into a workable model.

Benefits of Integrating BIM with Subsurface Utility Locating

Accurate 3D Visualization and Clash Detection

BIM enables the creation of detailed 3D models that incorporate subsurface utility data obtained through technologies like Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Electromagnetic Locating (EML). GPRS provides a 99.8% accuracy rating across over 400,000 locate jobs nationwide. These highly accurate models offer a comprehensive view of both above-ground and underground components.

Visualization: Users can visualize spatial relationships between surface features, buildings, and subsurface utilities. This visualization aids in decision-making during the design phases.

Clash Detection: By overlaying utility data onto BIM models, potential clashes between planned construction elements and existing utilities can be identified early. This reduces conflicts during construction and minimizes costly redesigns.

Improved Coordination and Collaboration

BIM enhances coordination and collaboration among project stakeholders, project managers, and other involved parties:

Data Sharing: Centralized BIM models act as repositories for project-related information, including subsurface utility data. This ensures all stakeholders have access to updated information, fostering transparency and reducing misunderstandings. With GPRS, all data, maps, and models are quickly delivered via file-sharing platforms and our new infrastructure data platform, SiteMap®.

Virtual Design Reviews: Virtual walkthroughs and design reviews allow stakeholders to identify and address potential issues before construction begins. These discussions focus on optimizing utility placements to minimize conflicts and streamline installation.

Enhanced Project Planning and Risk Management

Integrating BIM with subsurface utility locating enhances project planning and risk management:

Early Risk Identification: BIM simulations help identify and mitigate risks associated with subsurface utilities. Project teams can develop contingency plans for handling unexpected utility discoveries without disrupting timelines.

Cost Savings: By minimizing costly redesigns and construction delays, BIM integration contributes to overall cost savings throughout the project lifecycle. When paired with accurate utility locating, BIM reduces the likelihood of utility strikes or other catastrophic events caused by improperly mapped utilities.

Lifecycle Management and Maintenance

BIM supports facility management and maintenance by providing accurate as-built information:

As-Built Documentation: BIM models updated with actual installation details of utilities serve as valuable as-built documentation. This aids in future renovations, upgrades, and maintenance activities. GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to deliver highly accurate as-builts, often within 2-4mm, in various formats. Our Mapping & Modeling Team can create anything from a simple GPS-enabled utility locating map to detailed 2D CAD drawings and 3D BIM models, tailored to your needs.

Asset Management: Facility managers use BIM for efficient asset management, scheduling preventive maintenance, and optimizing operational efficiency.

Future Trends and Technologies

As BIM has evolved over the last 30-50 years, its integration with subsurface utility locating and the field of construction is expected to continue advancing:

AI and Machine Learning: AI-driven algorithms enhance utility detection accuracy and automate data processing from various sensors.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): AR and VR technologies may enable real-time visualization of subsurface utilities during field operations, enhancing onsite decision-making and safety.

The integration of BIM with subsurface utility locating opens new perspectives. Combining these two services creates a powerhouse of accuracy and visualization that surpasses CAD, traditional mapping, and even standard 3D models. By leveraging digital technologies and collaborative workflows, stakeholders can achieve greater efficiency, minimize risks, and deliver projects on time and within budget.

Embracing this synergy allows construction professionals to effectively manage and optimize the complexities of subsurface utilities, paving the way for safer, more efficient construction projects. GPRS' elite team of Project Managers and professionals is here to elevate your construction project through the integration of accurate utility data and BIM.

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

What can we help you visualize?