Subsurface Utility Mapping Across the Globe feat. Michael Twohig

Ep. 21 |
February 1, 2023

Ever wondered how the world of subsurface utility mapping is conducted in Europe? What are the issue they are trying to tackle? What are some of the issues and challenges we share? Our guest on this episode of the utility strategy podcast is Michael Twohig, a subject matter expert in the field of SUM.

Michael has more than 39 years of industry experience across the US, Australia, India, and Europe with a focus on the integration of tradition utility locating procedures with land survey best practices. In the span of his career, Michael has written more than 40 articles relating to utility mapping, underground damage prevention, and the utility industry’s best practices.

On today’s episode we will cover all relative challenges Michael has experiences and written about through his career.

Today Michael is head of SUM at DGT where he spearheads the firm’s subsurface utility location, 3D utility mapping, and subsurface utility damage prevention programs.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Key Takeaways

Change orders result from not mapping

Contractors face delays and change orders because the quality of subsurface information is so poor. We don't know why many of the firms that do know about subsurface mapping don't do the right thing at the beginning.

Because it only makes sense. There's a positive ROI. You make back every dollar you spend by mitigating construction claims and change orders. Unfortunately you don't see that today.

It's a problem of locating utilities because of poor as-builts

Unfortunately, we're always left with ambiguity in the handover. We rarely see a bonafide as-built by a a survey. From a construction site that leaves us a trail of what really was put in the ground and what's more important for us these days?

What's left in the ground? So in the US we have a big history of abandoning utilities in place. Uh, and often they're easier to trace than a new utility.

40,000 years with no evolution

But at the end of the day, I kind of think it's hypocrisy because, you know, 40,000 years ago, indigenous people communicated stories across generations by painting walls and messages on the ground.

And 40,000 years later, our entire underground damage prevention approach is still: let's paint on the ground.

Education and training from seasoned professionals is key!

In the US we've seen a huge amount of surveyors leaving the industry. 3,000 surveyors retire every year, and there's only about 300 coming into our industry. Very few of them are proficient at underground utility mapping.

There's a huge lack of institutional knowledge and for us, especially the principals at DGT had a very good time when we came into the industry. We went to college to get our education, but we learned our craft at work under mentoring, training programs from seasoned professionals.

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