How Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Empowers Civil Engineering Projects

How Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) Empowers Civil Engineering Projects
May 6, 2024

The Significance of Investing in Subsurface Utility Engineering

In the realm of civil engineering, the importance of accurate and comprehensive subsurface utility information cannot be overstated. Lack of reliable data on underground conditions often leads to inefficiencies in project design, delays in construction, and cost overruns. This is where Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) comes into play. By investing in SUE, civil engineers can become empowered to tackle these challenges head-on and revolutionize the way infrastructure projects are planned, designed, and executed. In this blog post, we will delve into how SUE empowers civil engineering beyond the technical processes and why it is a strategic imperative for modern infrastructure development.

Unveiling the Mysteries Below: The Basics of SUE

Subsurface Utility Engineering, or SUE, stands as a beacon of innovation in the civil engineering landscape, providing a sophisticated solution to the ancient challenge of understanding what lies beneath our feet. This field harnesses the power of cutting-edge technology, including ground-penetrating radar (GPR), electromagnetic induction, and vacuum excavation to pierce the veil of the earth’s surface, revealing the hidden networks of utilities that power our modern world. These utilities, ranging from water and sewer lines to gas, electric, and telecommunications cables, form the lifeline of urban infrastructure.


Photo displays the multiVIEW Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) team performing a SUE Quality Level A investigation using hydro vacuum excavation techniques to deliver underground utility insights for the design and planning of client’s civil infrastructure project.


By mapping utility systems with unprecedented accuracy, SUE equips civil engineers with the critical data necessary for informed decision-making throughout the lifecycle of infrastructure projects. This process not only elevates the precision of project designs but also allows for the anticipation and resolution of potential conflicts before they manifest into costly obstacles. Furthermore, the integration of such advanced techniques fosters a proactive approach to project management, setting a new standard for efficiency and reliability in the field.

For civil engineers, embracing SUE means stepping into a realm of greater control over the unseen, guiding projects toward success with a foundation of solid, data-driven insights. This strategic embrace of subsurface clarity ensures that the infrastructural developments of today are built with the vision and diligence they rightly demand, paving the way for a future where the unseen is no longer an obstacle.

The Economic Impacts of SUE on Project Efficiency and Cost Savings

The minimal upfront investment in SUE sets the stage for substantial economic returns over the lifespan of the infrastructure project. The precise mapping and identification of underground utilities facilitated by SUE not only averts the unforeseen interruptions that can throw timelines off course but also significantly curtails the need for costly change orders that can inflate budgets beyond initial forecasts.

Did you know that the biggest savings ascertained from a SUE investigation typically stem from the reduction of utility relocations and contractor claims? It’s true! A study conducted by the University of Toronto (U-of-T) commissioned by the Ontario Sewer & Watermain Contractors Association (Osman & El-Diaby, 2005), looked at 9 projects in southwestern Ontario where SUE investigations were performed. They found that 51% of all savings came from reducing contractor claim costs, while 31% came from curtailing utility relocation expenses. The strategic investment in the foresight delivered by SUE translates directly into heightened project efficiency, where adherence to schedules and budgets becomes not just an aspiration but a tangible outcome.

Projects that integrate SUE from their inception are marked by a smooth progression from planning through to execution, as potential obstacles are identified and navigated before they can impact the project’s financial health. It’s been proven time and again that implementing SUE can lead to cost savings of three times or more of the initial investment. The same U-of-T study concluded that all nine projects reported a positive return on investment (ROI) that ranged from $2.05 to $6.59 for each $1 spent on SUE. This proactive approach to project management not only secures the fiscal bottom line but also elevates the value delivered to clients and stakeholders.

The economic rationale for incorporating SUE into infrastructure projects extends beyond the immediate horizon of cost and time savings. It encompasses the broader vision of fostering resilient and sustainable infrastructure development that stands the test of time. By laying the groundwork for projects with precision and foresight, SUE empowers civil engineers to deliver infrastructure that marries efficiency with enduring value, ensuring that today’s investments yield dividends well into the future.

SUE Empowers Environmental Conservation and Sustainability

In the quest for more eco-friendly and responsible infrastructure projects, SUE emerges as a key ally in environmental conservation and sustainability efforts as well. This innovative approach goes beyond mere construction and design efficiency; it serves as a beacon for sustainable development practices. By accurately mapping and identifying underground utilities before the commencement of construction activities, SUE minimizes the disruption to the soil and the existing natural resources. It’s been reported that SUE can reduce the number of utility relocations by 30 to 50%, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This careful consideration and proactive management of the subsurface environment significantly reduce the ecological footprint of construction projects.

SUE also contributes to the preservation of ecosystems by preventing unintended damage to underground habitats and water systems, which can occur during excavation and construction processes. The meticulous planning and insights provided by SUE enable project teams to devise strategies that protect natural habitats, maintain the integrity of water sources, and prevent soil disturbance. This is particularly critical in areas of environmental sensitivity, where the balance of the ecosystem hangs in a delicate equilibrium.

The role of SUE in promoting sustainability also extends to the efficient use of resources. By avoiding unnecessary excavation and utility relocation, projects can see a reduction in the consumption of materials, energy, and water. This not only aligns with the principles of sustainable development but also illustrates a commitment to preserving our planet for future generations.

Graphic 3D image of a yellow bulldozer filling in the trench using the soil mound from the earth excavated to plant new blue PVC water pipes to service a new development site.

Through its contribution to minimizing environmental impact and championing sustainability, SUE embodies the synergy between advanced engineering practices and environmental stewardship. It showcases how modern civil engineering can navigate the challenges of development while remaining steadfast in its dedication to conserving the environment.

SUE Builds Public Trust and Confidence in Civil Infrastructure Projects

In the intricate dance of civil engineering and urban development, public trust and confidence are the currency by which success is measured. SUE contributes significantly to earning this trust by ensuring that infrastructure projects are not just visions of progress but tangible assets enhancing community life.

When SUE minimizes project timelines and utility relocations, it directly translates to fewer inconveniences for the public, thereby reinforcing the reliability of essential services. A meticulous approach to planning and executing infrastructure projects demonstrates a deep-seated respect for the community’s well-being and daily life. Optimizing project timelines through SUE also means that the promises made to the public are promises kept, reducing the scepticism often associated with delayed or over-budget projects.

In this way, SUE not only fortifies the technical backbone of our infrastructure but also weaves a stronger fabric of public trust and confidence, ensuring that the endeavours of today pave the way for a sustainable and prosperous tomorrow for all citizens.

SUE: A Strategic Imperative to Modern-Day Civil Engineering

Investing in Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) transcends the boundaries of a wise investment, evolving into a strategic necessity for the flourishing of contemporary infrastructure initiatives and the collective prosperity of all involved parties. It redefines the concept of efficiency, transforming the engineering landscape through design accuracy, regulatory adherence, and a commitment to environmental sustainability. SUE elevates itself from a technical function to a beacon of innovation and progress within the engineering sector, symbolizing a forward-thinking approach that aligns with the evolving demands of our society. The prioritization of SUE in project planning and execution is paramount, not merely for the successful realization of projects but as a testament to our collective commitment to building a resilient, efficient, and sustainable built environment. It ensures that every stakeholder’s interest is preserved and that public welfare remains at the forefront of infrastructural development. In essence, the strategic investment in SUE is a cornerstone for unlocking the untapped potential of our infrastructure, guiding us toward a future where progress and prosperity walk hand in hand.


multiVIEW Locates is your premier destination for comprehensive Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) services. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your SUE needs and embark on a journey towards project success.


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