New Report Highlights the Cost of Inaccurate Utility Data in the Construction Industry

The Common Ground Alliance’s 2022 DIRT Report Uncovers Disturbing Trends in Excavation and Utility Locating Practices

New Report Highlights the Cost of Inaccurate Utility Data in the Construction Industry

The Common Ground Alliance’s 2022 DIRT Report Uncovers Disturbing Trends in Excavation and Utility Locating Practices

94% of utility locating damage root causes reported to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) in 2022 were caused by incomplete or inaccurate subsurface infrastructure data.

94%... That is a staggering figure, and it is made up of the following root cause groups:

  • 67% - Locator Error
  • 14% - Missing or Incomplete Markings
  • 10% - Incorrect Utility Maps or Records
  • 3% - Abandoned/Forgotten Lines/Facilities

And the “vast majority of work performed for locator-error related damages was utility work.” Meaning that excavation for new utility lines, construction-related utility excavation, line repairs, etc. were responsible for the majority of the reported damages, which are up 12.35% per million dollars of construction spending over 2022.

Damages by root Cause Group Graphic
From the CGA 2022 DIRT Report

Those responsible for securing accurate utility mapping data – the facility owners/stakeholders and the contractors directly hired by them – are also the most likely to dig without following both the law and best practices within the industry – and broke ground without securing a public utility locate through the One Call system, dug outside the scope of their 811 locate ticket, or failed to pothole properly before excavating.

When you consider that the construction industry has already begun to receive the influx of more than half a trillion dollars in Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment funds, which is expected to kick construction into high gear for the next several years, the potential for widespread and serious utility strike damage becomes almost unimaginable.

Inaccurate Utility Data Creates an Impossible Dilemma for General Contractors & Owners

To provide some perspective, a sample of data from seven states conducted by CGA concludes that more than half – 56% – of all new construction projects cannot legally begin work on their planned start date.

Which means general contractors and their subcontractors, engineers, architects, and facility owners are put in an impossible position. Either they proceed with their project, knowing that they are breaking the law to stay on schedule, and risk expensive change orders, reworks, and a potentially deadly situation if they strike an underground utility. Or they delay, putting them behind before they’ve even begun, and costing the project, and all those involved in it, thousands, if not millions, of dollars in labor costs and down time.

That is no exaggeration. According to a recent study from Autodesk & FMI, inaccurate, incomplete, and inaccessible data cost the global construction industry $1.85 trillion in 2020 alone.

Solving the Problem of Inaccurate Utility Maps – One Job at a Time

There are several remedies available to general contractors, their teams, and other stakeholders to greatly reduce or eliminate incorrect and incomplete subsurface utility mapping and the damages they cause.

1. Hire a private locating company to locate private utility lines and confirm public utility locating data.

When hiring a private utility locator near you, it is vital that you get their bona fides. What is their level of expertise and training? What is their company’s verified accuracy rate? Do they provide depths for their locates and digital maps and PDFs of your utility data?

GPRS has maintained a 99.8% accuracy rate on over 500,000 utility locating and concrete scanning jobs throughout the U.S. because we require every GPRS Project Manager to be trained in and utilize Subsurface Investigation Methodology (SIM). SIM is the industry-leading program that ensures every GPRS field team member performs at an elite, expert level utilizing multiple technologies to provide you with the most accurate utility locating and mapping data in the industry. Whenever possible, we include line depths in our locates, and can help you visualize your data in a number of ways, depending on your needs.

2. Utilize a secure, and shareable GIS-centered utility mapping software platform that provides immediate and continual access to subsurface utility as-builts.

It is important that you control the quality and accessibility of your utility mapping data, so hiring a company like GPRS that provides complimentary PDF and KMZ files for every utility locate, and a complimentary Personal subscription to their infrastructure visualization platform – SiteMap®gives you 99.8% accurate layered and interactive utility maps and the power to securely share and utilize the data with your team.

3. Replace outdated “as-intended” drawings and maps with updated drawings, maps, and BIM models so that your as-builts truly are as built.  

From CGA's 2022 DIRT Report
From CGA's 2022 DIRT Report

At GPRS, we say Data Control = Damage Control™ for a reason. It’s because we understand firsthand that the quality of your information – real time, updated, and accurate – is what keeps your job on time, on budget, and safe. Our in-house Mapping & Modeling Team can work with our various service lines to Intelligently Visualize The Built World® for you, to translate our 99.8% accurate utility data into maps, 2D CAD drawings, 3D walkthroughs, and even 3D BIM models that integrate your subsurface utility maps with existing and planned aboveground construction so that your entire team can visualize your site to enhance communication and collaboration.

Of course, you have to follow the law, and your state’s One Call regulations before you break ground. If you are committed to safe, on-time, and on-budget project management, a private utility locator like GPRS can ensure your data is accurate, complete, and up to date.

What can we help you visualize?

What is a DIRT Report?

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) issues an annual report detailing construction-related utility strike damages caused by excavation. It is called the DIRT Report for the Alliance’s Damage Information Reporting Tool, that allows excavators, general contractors, stakeholders, and others to report utility damages and 811 One Call reporting information.

To avoid the risk of a utility strike, the CGA strongly recommends acquiring accurate public and private utility locating information and utilizing a GIS platform tool to store your utility maps so they are accessible to your team and stakeholders.