How is Technology Advancing Subsurface Infrastructure Mapping?

How is Technology Advancing Subsurface Infrastructure Mapping?

Laura Davis, Manufacturing Technology Insights | Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Underground construction projects need up-to-date technologies and enhancement in the existing survey processes in geotechnical engineering.

FREMONT, CA: Underground infrastructure is vital—and construction firms have new opportunities to build and maintain it with the help of innovative technology. Great changes are currently happening in this area. Construction projects require the geolocation of subsurface before and during the construction workflow. It is a vital part of designing, planning, construction, and maintenance of any project above the surface. Historically, subsurface utility networks have endangered the lives of people. For construction owners, lack of information about the presence, nature, and location of subsurface infrastructure often generate a challenging scenario.

It is essential to look at the entire lifecycle of building infrastructure. Until the last few years, there was no way of creating a 3D model of the subsurface infrastructure. In recent years, technology advancements have helped in subsurface utility engineering to reduce inefficiencies and build a real-time 3D map of the subsurface. This is critical for the numerous professionals in the industry, including asset owners, state and local government agencies, and military organizations, to make informed decisions in their respective disciplines. The mapping and modeling of subsurface infrastructure help construction firms to mitigate risk from a utility-congested scenario.

Innovative technology solutions, including advanced sensors, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), electromagnetic location, LiDAR, and BIM, are playing an essential role in creating data-based solutions for subsurface project contractors. GPR has gained more of the attention of the subsurface industry. A GPR generates a map or the image of the subsurface for engineers and constructors using high-frequency radio pulses to identify structures underground. The contractors are increasingly relying on integrated hardware and software to map the subsurface infrastructure. While the hardware allows the detection of the infrastructure, it is the software that processes and gives the results in a 3D map.

In construction, the adoption of BIM is a megatrend that is motivated by the need for sustainability and higher productivity. BIM is found to be critical in lowering the engineering risks associated with the subsurface construction site. It helps project owners to evaluate and assess the impact of the new construction on the existing subsurface infrastructure. A fully integrated BIM software is used to not only reduce the costs but also reduce inefficiencies in the underground facility and better visualize potential challenges before and after construction.

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