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ICE and BSI launch revised standard to map underground utilities

10 May 2022

The updated PAS 128 standard provides users with a consistent approach to gain more accurate visibility of water, sewer, electric networks, and more.  

ICE and BSI launch revised standard to map underground utilities
PAS 128 can help better understand and map our underground utility networks.

The UK will be able to better map its underground utility networks after an update of PAS 128, the standard governing utility surveys.

ICE sponsored the revised British Standards Institute (BSI) standard, which specifies how to detect, verify and locate new and existing underground utilities, such as water, sewer, and electric.

PAS 128, updated from the 2014 edition, aims to improve the accuracy of underground utility network maps with the following additions:

  • Guidance on training and qualifications of practitioners,
  • Updates to the application of post processing in detection surveys,
  • New specification for buried utility detection and avoidance to support on-site permits to break ground,
  • Guidance on the accuracy of detection methods, and
  • Guidance on the technical factors that dictate the effort required for a detection survey.

The standard also sets out the data accuracy required, the data quality expected and means by which to assess and indicate the confidence that can be placed in such data.

PAS 128 topics

The mapping of underground networks includes active, abandoned, redundant, or unknown underground utilities and the location of their associated surface features like manhole covers and utility markers.

It applies regardless of where these utilities are found, including urban or rural areas, in the street, or on private sites such as hospitals or airfields.

The updated PAS 128 covers the following topics:

  • Project planning and the scoping process,
  • The classification system for quality levels based on survey type, location accuracy, inclusion of post-processing and level of supporting data,
  • Desktop utility records search,
  • Detection,
  • Verification,
  • Location, and
  • Deliverables.

Who is PAS 128 for?

The standard is designed for use by practitioners such as surveyors, geophysicists, and subsurface utility engineers.

It can also be used by clients such as engineers, constructors, project managers and utility owners who are responsible for recording information about underground utilities.

Why use PAS 128?

PAS 128 on underground utility detection can lead to more effective planning and safer execution of street works, civil works, ground works and utility-based activities.

Some of the benefits of using the standard include:

  • Provides clarity about the service provided and methods employed, a consistent approach to data capture, and accountability for the work undertaken.
  • Indicates the presence or absence of underground utilities before conducting further ground investigation, prior to breaking ground.
  • Supports the detection, location, and avoidance of buried services.
  • Enables better informed decisions using more complete, up-to-date, and accurate data, helping ensure the safety and timely progress of site development.
  • Prevents or reduces conflicts, delays, unnecessary work, damage to third party assets, utility service disruptions, redesigns, personal injuries and even loss of life.
  • Supplies data that could lead to unrealised benefits, such as the use of remote robotic techniques that reduce the need for intrusive maintenance.
  • Improves asset modelling capabilities.
  • Helps manage risk, improve efficiency, and develop users’ expertise.

Where is PAS 128 available?

PAS 128 is available for download from the British Standards Institute website.

Find out more
  • Adam Kirkup, engineering communities manager at ICE