The Importance of SUE - Blog Series, Part I

Nearly every civil infrastructure project is impacted by existing utilities. By using SUE to accurately map existing utility facilities civil engineers can mitigate these impacts, and reduce unnecessary utility relocations and delays. The results are measurable project cost savings, a reduced schedule, and a safer working environment for the contractor. 

There have been several case studies on the impact SUE can have on your project. The studies confirm that SUE can save you 3 to 4 times your investment (or more!) by eliminating conflicts and delays. Please don’t take our word on it, read the case studies for yourself here:

Case Studies:

January 2000 FHWA/Purdue Case Studies

  • A total of 71 projects from Virginia, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio were studied.
  • “The total savings on a typical project may range from 10% to 15% compared with costs from a project not supported by professional SUE.” 

2005 University of Toronto Study

  • $3.41 Return on $1.00 Investment

April 2013: Utility Investigation Study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute

  • Highlights TxDOT’s use of SUE on highway projects
  • Recommends basic SUE training and utility impact analysis training ??

What is SUE? 

Subsurface Utility Engineering, or SUE, is a sub-discipline of civil engineering, that combines technologies and design methodologies to deal with the problems of underground utilities on civil infrastructure projects. 

Professional SUE services should be completed in accordance with the recommended practices and procedures described in ASCE publication CI/ASCE 38-02 “Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data.” As described in the publication, four levels have been established to describe and depict the quality of subsurface utility information. 

The four quality levels are as follows:

  • Quality Level D (QL “D”) – Information obtained from existing utility records.
  • Quality Level C (QL “C”) – Surveyed data depicting visible above-ground features supplemented with QL “D” information.
  • Quality Level B (QL “B”) – Two-dimensional horizontal information obtained through the application and interpretation of non-destructive surface geophysical methods. Also known as “designating,” this level incorporates QL “C” and QL “D” information and provides surveyed horizontal positioning of subsurface utilities.
  • Quality Level A (QL “A”) – Three-dimensional horizontal and vertical information obtained through non-destructive vacuum excavation equipment to expose utilities at critical points. Also known as “locating,” this level incorporates QL “B” information and provides precise horizontal and vertical positioning of subsurface utilities.

The Rios Group are experts in SUE. If you have additional questions about the SUE process, would like to understand how to better utilize SUE on your current or next project, or if you and your team are interested in a more in-depth “Lunch & Learn” presentation on SUE, you may contact us at / 817-345-7500 or 512-580-5440.

Keep an eye on this blog for updates. This is the first in an 8-part monthly blog series in which we will touch on the importance of SUE in several different markets, including: transportation, water & wastewater, campuses and facilities design, and more.