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What are the Levels of SUE (Subsurface Utility Engineering)?

by Cindy on September 22, 2014

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) is the investigation of underground utilities to help aid in design on a site.  There are four quality levels of SUE:

  • Quality Level D (Records Research / Data Collection)
  • Quality Level C (Above ground survey)
  • Quality Level B (Utility Designation)
  • Quality Level A (Test Hole / Pot Holing)
Quality Level D
Is simply the process of gathering record data (which is not necessarily so simple).  This data could be digital records, paper records, internet search, site inspection or just talking to people who are familiar with the site. The available data could be limited and not produce a complete picture of what is onsite.  And if the source of some data is unknown or questionable, the completeness and accuracy of the investigation could be compromised. In any event, once the data is collected, it is compiled into a drawing that states the quality level.
Quality Level C
Involves the process of surveying the visible utility features, or if they have already been surveyed, checking the surveyed locations for their accuracy.  This data is compiled with the Quality Level D data and both levels are labeled accordingly.  Quality Level C data could, and often will, conflict with the Quality Level D data and raise questions as to the locations of some underground utility lines.
Quality Level B
Involves designating the underground utilities, for example, by markings provided through an 811 call or by contacting an individual utility company. This data is added to the data collected from Quality Levels D and C.  The designated utilities are then surveyed and added to the drawing which can then be identified as representing the results of a Quality Level B investigation.
Quality Level A
Involves physically locating the actual utility – often by ‘potholing.’ Once the utility is potholed it is located horizontally and vertically by survey measurements.  This location is typically to the top of pipe, which should be noted on the drawing.
The Levels of SUE work build on each other.  They can done in phases or all at the same time.  When the drawing of the utility locations is completed it will designate to what quality level each utility line is shown. This will give the designers an idea of the quality of the information they are working which, in turn, will tell then what confidence they can place in the related utility locations.