Sewer and water pipe construction typically involves deep shaft excavation, open cut, micro-tunnelling, and pipe jacking works. Prior to carrying out any work, it is critical to identify all existing underground utilities and verify their exact locations and depths, so as to prevent damaging them or to divert them before constructing the pipes. Currently, the detection and identification of underground utilities are done by referring to drawings, and trial trenching. Trial trenching is a process whereby small trenches are dug to reveal the underground contents. However, this process can be inefficient and increase the amount of time, effort and costs required to seek approval to allow trenching in the following scenarios:
● The utilities are under major roads with heavy traffic;
● The alignment of the utilities is inaccurate and multiple trenches are required to locate the utilities; and/or
● The utilities are buried too deep and require the design and submission of Earth Retaining and Stabilising Structures for the trenching work to reach the desired deep depth.
Currently, there is no alternative method to reliably and comprehensively detect and identify existing underground utilities other than to physically expose the utilities by trial trenching.
The pipes could be installed to depths of 1m to 40m. Besides pipes, common utilities found underground are telecommunication cables (typically at shallower depths of 1.2m to 3m) and power cables (at depth of 1.2m to 5m).
Some of the common materials of water and sewer pipes are ductile and cast iron, steel, reinforced and polymer concrete, and vitrified clay. Electrical cables and telco cables are normally housed in protective sleeves using HDPE/PVC pipes, however certain stretches may not be housed in protective sleeves at all.