Risk is an unavoidable element of any construction or infrastructure project. Whether it’s from health and safety issues on the project site, environmental hazards, financial complications or utility strikes—risk can knock any project off track.
When project managers, contractors, and project owners don’t take the right steps to properly mitigate risk, even simple projects can quickly become expensive quagmires. But when key stakeholders act together to mitigate and minimize risk early on, project owners and project managers can keep their projects safe, on time, and on budget.
In a previous post, we talked about the key differences for utility stakeholders between Design Bid Build and Design Build project delivery methods. One of the key differences between the two methods is the way that risk is allocated between the different project stakeholders.
In Design Bid Build projects, project owners often hold much of the ultimate responsibility for different types of risk—especially utility risk—because they are coordinating between the designer and the contractor.
In Design Build projects, on the other hand, design-builders takes on a more significant share of the risk as they become involved earlier in the construction process.
The best-known and most dangerous type of risk on any construction or infrastructure project. At best, health and safety issues on a project site can cause significant and expensive delays— and at worst, they can lead to worker injuries and loss of life.
Environmental risk can come from several sources and can be expensive if not managed correctly. It can come from work in sensitive environmental areas, delays in acquiring environmental permits, pollution from debris and construction materials, land degradation, and even from project site noise and vibrations.
When project schedules are overly ambitious or don’t factor in issues caused by potential poor weather or coordination issues, costs can quickly rack up and delayed work can cause unexpected expenses.
Utility strikes caused during excavation and construction are incredibly common—and expensive.
According to the Common Ground Alliance, there are over 400,000 accidental utility strikes in the United States every year.
These strikes can have significant direct and indirect costs for all project stakeholders—including injured workers, transmission interruptions, project delays, and costly relocations.
All project stakeholders have big incentives to work together to minimize project risk.
Project managers, estimators, designers, engineers, and service providers have several tools at their disposal to minimize utility risk.
Utility stakeholders have several options to help them mitigate utility risk and keep projects on track.
No matter the project delivery method, utility mapping can be an important and valuable part of any utility strategy. In the earliest phases of a design build or design bid build project, clear and comprehensive utility data can give project managers and estimators a good picture of the subsurface utility landscape relevant to their project. That can orient the entire project in the right direction—giving project owners and general contractors a head start in addressing utility conflict, estimators the ability to better price in utility risk, and designers the ability to design more accurately and quickly.
Utility mapping also works in tandem with other key utility risk mitigation tools throughout the lifecycle of a project. Estimators can see clearly where subsurface utilities might require dealing with private easements, and utility owners can begin to understand where relocations might be required. And SUE providers, for example, can use utility mapping as a snapshot of the subsurface utility landscape, allowing them to minimize time needed out in the field and to verify that they’ve efficiently located all utilities.
Of course, having a clear look at the subsurface also facilitates early utility coordination, by enabling project owners and designers to identify the relevant utility stakeholders and begin working with them early in the project lifecycle. A report sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation found that having clear utility information early in the process can create big advantages for all stakeholders:
“State DOT’s agreed that general strategies to make optimal design decisions would involve access to accurate and comprehensive utility data, utility adjustment cost data, informed and trained designers, and timely and frequent communications with utility owners.”
Utility mapping can be an important piece of any utility strategy—helping all stakeholders minimize their exposure to utility risk.
Interested in seeing how utility mapping can help minimize utility risk on your next project?
and see how we can shine some light on your utility strategy.