The SUE PROCESS

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is an engineering process that has evolved considerably over the past few decades.

SUE – Bridging the Gap between Survey and Engineering

It has been used primarily by State and local transportation departments, design consultants, and utility companies to locate existing subsurface utilities with a high degree of accuracy and comprehensiveness.


The SUE process combines civil engineering, geophysics, and surveying, and utilizes surface geophysics, vacuum excavation, and mapping technologies. When used properly it avoids many conflicts, reduces project delays and costs. Its use has become a routine requirement on highway projects in many states. It is strongly advocated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and many other governmental transportation agencies.


The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) encourages the use of Subsurface Utility
Engineering (SUE) to promote cost effectiveness and construction safety for all city, county and state highway projects where underground utilities are present. BLD Associates, LLC
Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Division utilizes both existing and new technologies to perform a variety of services to horizontally and vertically locate and map underground utilities.
The first phase of SUE is typically the designation phase. Designating is the use of geophysical techniques to determine the horizontal position of underground utilities. The information gathered can be used in preliminary engineering design to determine the location of possible conflict points. Decisions can be made early in the design process to locate storm drainage systems and other underground design features, thereby avoiding conflicts with existing utilities. The ability to make these slight adjustments during the preliminary design phase can produce substantial cost savings by eliminating utility relocations and construction delays. However, the information gathered in the designating phase still doesn’t give the design engineer the vertical location of the utility.

The second phase of locating is used when the vertical position of existing utilities is desired.
Locating is the use of non-destructive vacuum excavation equipment at critical points along a
Subsurface utility’s path to determine the precise horizontal and vertical position of buried utilities. This information provides the design engineer with an accurate three dimensional positioning of the utility. The use of the non-destructive vacuum excavation equipment eliminates damage to underground utility facilities traditionally caused by backhoes. In addition, the small 8” x 8” work area at the top of the hole eliminates much of the pavement damage caused by backhoes. The horizontal and vertical information gathered in the locating phase provides the design engineer with accurate data that can be used to make adjustments in design elevations or horizontal locations thus avoiding the expense of relocating utilities. Taylor
Wiseman & Taylor provides both designation and location phases to a wide variety of clients.
State Highway Departments, Utility Companies and Municipalities use this information during early design stages to reduce the cost and time required to complete highway and capital improvement projects. Developers use the information to minimize construction delays by having knowledge of conflict locations during the design of their projects. And contractors use this service to avoid damaging existing utilities when they work in utility intensive areas. Our firm’s key personnel have extensive experience in Subsurface Utility Engineering. We are committed to providing our clients with timely, accurate data in a pre-approved format. We can supply our clients with a computer-based drawing file and/or hard copy report. Our survey staff uses either conventional or Real-Time Kinematic Global Positioning System methods when surveying is required. Subsurface Utility Engineering saves time and money on projects where possible utility conflicts may occur. BLD Associates, LLC has the experienced personnel and technology ready to service all your SUE needs.

BLD Associates, LLC are leaders in Subsurface Utility Engineering including utility designating, locating, mapping, design, permitting, and coordination services to public and private clients in North Carolina, and South Carolina, and other cities or countries as required by our clients. Also, when new projects impact existing utilities, BLD Associates, LLC’s experts can manage all aspects of conflict avoidance and resolution, to minimize utility relocations, construction conflicts and project delays. In addition to engineering design, and permitting, BLD Associates, LLC conducts feasibility studies to ensure project soundness and value. We can manage all phases of construction to ensure contract agreement.


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