The Benefits of Virtual Tours and Subsurface Infrastructure Management

The Benefits of Virtual Tours and Subsurface Infrastructure Management

The more you can see, the more you can understand.

SiteMap® (patent pending), powered by GPRS, takes infrastructure visualization and mapping a step further to provide on and off-site collaboration and progress reporting.

But what are the benefits of leveraging virtual tours and subsurface infrastructure management tools for project and facility management, and how do these technologies support one another?

Screenshot of a WalkThru 3D Virtual Tour.
WalkThru 3D allows you to remotely report existing reality capture to stakeholders, managers, contractors, trades, and anyone else involved.

Understanding the Subsurface Infrastructure Challenge

The subsurface infrastructure of any urban area is a tangled web of utility lines and structures that includes water and sewage pipes, gas and oil pipelines, electrical conduits, telecommunications cables, and more. These systems are the lifelines of modern society, facilitating essential services that support daily life, commerce, and industry. They consist of both private and public utilities, with overlaps guaranteed.

Managing and maintaining this underground infrastructure presents a myriad of challenges. Traditional methods of inspection and maintenance often involve costly and time-consuming excavation, leading to disruptions, safety hazards, and environmental impact. Moreover, inaccurate or outdated records further compound these challenges, increasing the risk of utility strikes, service disruptions, and costly repairs.

811 is an excellent source of information, but they do not have all the information needed to safely expand and maintain our cities. That’s because 811/One Call services only carry data related to public utilities, and there are millions of miles worth of private utilities underlying our communities; 65% of all underground utility lines are private, not public. These private lines often go unmapped, causing utility strikes, cross bores due to directional boring/trenchless tech applications, and other issues. This is where GPRS and SiteMap® make a difference: precisely mapping and visualizing all utilities within your site, whether public or private, including depths where possible to provide an accessible single source of truth with 99.8% accuracy.

While understanding the subsurface is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of building and maintaining the modern world, visualizing facilities aboveground is also vital to on and off-site collaboration. When you can visualize every aspect of your site, you’re able to accurately understand and communicate all there is to know about an area, virtually eliminating any guesswork or risk.

You can’t properly manage your infrastructure if you don’t have a map of all your facilities.

Virtual Tours and Subsurface Infrastructure Management

GPRS does more than provide SiteMap® with accurate, field verified data – they also help provide and create stunning virtual tours that help support complete infrastructure management. GPRS utilizes rectified 3D photogrammetry to create an orthomosaic 3D image that you can virtually move through to visualize and understand every aspect of the project.

We call this service WalkThru 3D, and it provides many benefits:

  • Greater Communication: WalkThru 3D allows you to remotely report existing reality capture to stakeholders, managers, contractors, trades, and anyone else involved. This means that they can walk through the site at their own pace. And, because it is delivered via SiteMap®, you can even digitally measure inside the image to help plan and design off-site better than ever before.
  • Validation of As-Built Conditions: As-builts for existing infrastructure are best characterized as “as-intended.” GPRS provides you with accurate existing conditions, including mark-outs of above and below-ground features. These are all easily captured in WalkThru 3D, and made accessible 24/7 through your SiteMap® and SiteMap® Mobile App.
  • QA/QC Monitoring & Inspection: Review clash prevention processes and inspect finished work in detail with rectified orthomosaic imaging that captures all existing conditions and markings on concrete or other surfaces that were scanned with GPR and EM locators.
  • Becomes an As-Built Resource: WalkThru 3D creates a permanent, portable 3D record of your property for reference so that your team can identify MEP, structural, and other important site features for operations and maintenance, and future planning purposes.
A GPRS Project Manager looks at a tablet.
SiteMap® (patent pending), powered by GPRS, takes infrastructure visualization and mapping a step further to provide on and off-site collaboration and progress reporting.

The Marriage of Accurate Mapping and Visualization

Accurate utility locating services, like those provided by GPRS, enable the creation of detailed and accurate maps and models of underground utilities. Advanced infrastructure visualization techniques, such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR), 3D laser scanning, video pipe inspection, and more, allow for non-destructive visualization of subsurface structures. The data collected is then integrated into SiteMap®, providing an easy to understand, aggregated, layered, and annotated digital map of all utility and facility assets.

These digital maps offer invaluable insights into the spatial distribution of utilities, their depths, and interconnections. By visualizing subsurface and aboveground infrastructure in a virtual environment, stakeholders gain a deeper understanding of their layout and condition, facilitating informed decision-making and planning.

When you add virtual tours to your infrastructure management arsenal, you’re giving yourself and your team access to the full puzzle. Virtual tours like WalkThru 3D allow you to virtually manage your project, without sacrificing quality or accuracy. Coordinate off-site prefabrication, work with subcontractors, trades, and stakeholders in remote locations to reduce travel, clashes, and change orders by providing a virtual and digital as-built record for collaboration.

These walkthroughs also tie in with best infrastructure management practices by allowing your team to visualize hard-to-reach or hard-to-visualize spaces. With your walkthrough delivered via SiteMap®, you're able to get up-close feature visualization and take virtual measurements in areas that are difficult for manual measurements. This may include tight spaces, clean rooms, or those with a lot of equipment.

This technology basically turns you into the Superman of asset management. With a virtual tour you’re also able to see what’s inside the walls before construction is complete to map pipe runs, measure, and verify. WalkThru 3D can provide a permanent digital record of the encased MEP features for O&M and repairs.

Enhanced Safety and Risk Mitigation

One of the primary advantages of virtual tours and subsurface infrastructure management is improved safety. By accurately mapping underground and aboveground utilities, organizations can identify potential hazards and mitigate risks associated with excavation and construction activities. Complete access to digital maps allows for proactive planning and coordination, reducing the likelihood of utility strikes and associated accidents.

According to the Common Ground Alliance’s 2022 DIRT Report, the 811 One Call system fielded 39,565,535 requests to locate public utilities.

In that same time period, some 192,745 utility strikes were reported in the United States. The economic impact of these incidents exceeded $30 billion, highlighting the urgent need for effective risk mitigation strategies. According to similar research conducted by IPC, the cost may exceed $60 billion annually.

According to research conducted for GPRS in 2021 by Finch, the average cost to a facility for each one of those 192,745 utility strikes that make up 811’s 0.53% strike rate is approximately $56,000.

Cost Savings and Efficiency Gains

Virtual tours and subsurface infrastructure management tools offer significant cost savings by optimizing maintenance and construction processes. By reducing the need for manual excavation and minimizing project delays, accidents, and other problems, organizations can lower operational costs and enhance project efficiency.

A 2022 analysis by the World Bank found that every public dollar invested in infrastructure led to $1.50 in resulting economic activity, with a bigger effect during a recession. By adopting digital mapping and management solutions, organizations can proactively identify maintenance needs, prioritize investments, and extend the lifespan of underground assets.

Regulatory Compliance and Sustainability

In a crucial time of increasing environmental regulations and sustainability concerns, virtual tours and subsurface infrastructure management play a crucial role in ensuring compliance and minimizing environmental impact. By accurately mapping underground utilities, organizations can assess the potential impact of development projects on surrounding ecosystems and water resources.

Furthermore, digital mapping enables the identification of opportunities for infrastructure optimization and resource conservation. By reducing the need for unnecessary excavations and minimizing disruption to natural habitats, organizations can uphold their commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

Virtual tours as a component of proper and complete infrastructure management offers a multitude of benefits for urban development and infrastructure maintenance. By leveraging digital technologies such as site mapping software like SiteMap®, organizations can enhance safety, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.

GPRS SiteMap® Team Members are currently scheduling live, personal SiteMap® demonstrations. Click below to schedule your demo, and see how SiteMap® can help you plan, design, manage, dig, and build better today!