Utility-congested underground environments are intensely challenging and potentially pose significant risks for engineers.

New software developed by Bentley will enable integrated engineering management of underground utility networks for water, storm water, gas, and electricity services.

Building on BIM technology for multi-disciplinary civil engineering projects, the software brings together data from multiple sources and then geo-coordinates it to allow effective sub-surface 3D Modelling, interactive inspection, utility conflict detection and clash resolution.

Risks can range from project delays to damaged subsurface utilities to explosions that threaten below- and above-ground infrastructure, as well as human lives. But by providing a framework of powerful software tools and rich content to quickly and easily generate high-fidelity, intelligent 3D feature-based models of the buried construction zone, the risks of building in utility-congested, “call-before-you-dig” underground environments will be mitigated.

“In cities around the world, the area that I believe poses the biggest risk to those designing, building, and operating infrastructure is found by looking down," said Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley. "It’s also the area for which it seems there’s been the least advancement of information modelling and information mobility to improve construction throughput and enhance the reliability, safety, and resilience of infrastructure assets."

“This Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) software uniquely provides across disciplines a powerful new information modelling application. Its use will empower project teams to comprehensively understand, and more effectively and efficiently resolve underground infrastructure conflicts.”

SUE automatically creates 3D models from survey information, CAD data, GIS, Excel spreadsheets, Oracle databases and other industry standard sources of information. By maintaining a relationship between CAD and GIS utility sources and tracking civil features, it will ensure that data is always synchronized and up to date.

Using the visualization and clash detection capabilities, users can readily identify and resolve conflicts between new construction features and existing utilities during the design phase. This helps mitigate risk during construction; reduce costs, and sustain asset performance.

Engineers will also have significant and unique optioneering capabilities that will allow them to readily create and compare design alternatives through a combination of active plan, profile, and cross-section views with innovative 3D modeling technology and parametric design features.

SUE provides indispensable insights for contractors employing alternative delivery approaches such as design-build, and taking on the risks associated with identifying and resolving subsurface utility conflicts.

The software delivers against both the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s “MAP-21” recommendations for 3D modelling/virtual construction and visualisation technology, and the Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data (38-02) that govern subsurface utility information quality.

The aims of the recommendations are to help infrastructure owners and their design teams develop appropriate strategies to reduce risk by improving the reliability of information on existing subsurface utilities in a defined manner.