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ASCE Standard

Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has developed a National Consensus Standard titled ASCE C-I 38-02, Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data. This National Consensus Standard (NCS) follows the legal procedures for adoption as not only an ASCE standard, but also as an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard. The Justice system holds these standards in high regard, and courts and lawyers use these standards to assist in both defining a professional's standard of care and in adjudication of blame.

The standard committee's executive steering group was selected by the ASCE Board. Its members represented governmental agencies, the engineering profession, the construction profession, academia, and project ownership. Meetings were open to the public and were announced in Civil Engineering and Civil Engineering News magazines.

The intent of this standard is to present a system of classifying the quality of existing subsurface utility data. Such a classification will allow the project owner, engineer, and constructor to develop strategies to reduce risk, or at minimum, to allocate risk due to existing subsurface utilities in a defined manner. This document, as a handout or as part of a specification, may assist engineers, owners, and contractors in understanding utility quality level classifications and their allocations of risk.

The standard closely follows the concepts already in place in the subsurface utility engineering profession. Several state DOTs are therefore already in "compliance" with this standard through their use of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) consultants, or their inclusion of SUE specifications in their engineering contracts. Most states with current SUE programs will probably want to modify them to be more closely in synch with the standard, and states with no program will probably want to protect themselves by including this standard by reference in their contract documents.

In general, the standard contains provisions such that:

  • The project owner will be responsible for taking appropriate actions to consider and deal with utility risks. On many small projects, where few subsurface utilities are present, and/or where information about subsurface utilities is believed to be generally accurate and comprehensive, this will only involve making a conscious decision to proceed with the project using readily available information. On larger projects, where information about subsurface utilities is not believed to be generally accurate and comprehensive, this may involve employing the services of an engineer to provide expert advice and to use available technologies to provide better information.
  • The engineer will advise the project owner of utility risks and recommend an appropriate quality level of utility data for a given project area at the appropriate time within the project planning and design process. Such advice will take into account such items as type of project, expected utilities, available rights-of-way, project timetables, and so forth.
  • The project owner will specify to the engineer the desired quality level of utility data.
  • The engineer will furnish the desired utility quality level to the owner in accordance with the standard of care.
  • The engineer will be responsible for negligent errors and/or omissions in the utility data for the certified utility quality level.

The NTSB, AGC, ASCE, FHWA, NUCA, NRC, and many other organizations are firmly behind this standard development and implementation. This standard will be in place by the close of 2002 and that case law will be cited within the following two years.

Additional information on this standard and its anticipated impact on the engineering and DOT community is available via any of the standard committee's executive steering group.

Order Information

The ASCE standard, "ASCE C-I 38-02, Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data," is available for purchase from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The price is $44.00 per copy. There is a 50% discount for purchases of 100 copies or more. There is also a fee for shipping & handling. To obtain copies of the standard, please contact:

Mr. Will Farnam
Marketing Director
ASCE Publications
1801 Alexander Bell Drive
Reston, VA 20191
(703) 295-6252

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Updated: 10/07/2014
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