Utility Surveying

Utility surveying is an emerging profession in Hong Kong and worldwide. The profession aims to deal with the rapid growth and increasingly complex underground utility’s spider networks that are constituted by water supply , drainage, sewerage, power, gas, telecommunication pipes and cables. This relatively new scope extends the land surveying discipline from above ground to characterization of underground or subsurface. The growing demand for this profession is the result of the increasing awareness of tragedies which have been caused by insufficient monitoring and maintenance of underground utilities. One typical example is the disastrous landslide which happened in Kwun Lung Lau on 23 July 1994, triggered by constant water seepage due to defective drainage network buried in the slope. Following this disaster, the demand for surveys of underground utilities attracted wide attention, and standards and regulations have been enforced to define and regulate utility surveying practices, not only in water supplies and drainage, but also in gas and power cables. For example, the Code of Practice on Monitoring and Maintenance of Water Carrying Services Affecting Slopes was initially enacted in 1996 and revised in 2006. Another two examples are the Gas Safety Ordinance and Electricity Supply Lines (Protection) Regulation was enacted on 1997 and 2002 respectively. The cases of gas and power cable require cable to be detection prior to excavation, in order to ascertain their existence, alignment and depth.

At present, the demand of utility surveying is not only about safety, but also extends to detail 3D underground/subsurface mapping with precise land surveying technologies, and customization of the information from different utility undertakers into unified database using GIS. This profession strives to provide solutions that help to solve a range of underground utility problems at different stages, from (1) initial systems and design, then (2) intermediate surveying and construction, and (3) long term monitoring and maintenance, data, operational and asset management. Hong Kong is very much in short of such properly trained utility specialists that can integrate the spatial above-ground and underground information. It is anticipated that more qualified utility specialists are in urgent demand due to persistent urbanization and underground utility projects.

(Copyright, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)