Approximately 4 million holes are cut into the UK road network each year in order to install or repair buried service pipes and cables. The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) estimates that there are 60,000 utility strikes a year in the UK alone, which conservatively cost UK Plc £600M/year.

Academic colleagues from the School of Engineering recently discussed the need for reducing the risk of undetected buries pipes and cables in order to increase safety when carrying out any ground investigations with engineering professionals.


The CPD event, which was entitled ‘Can we create a Map of the Underworld’, was held by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) West Midlands branch at the University of Birmingham. The event was a huge success, with over 40 people from a range of industrial backgrounds in attendance. The speakers were Dr Nicole Metje from the School of Engineering and Nick Zembillas from Subsurface Utility Engineering LLC, who is based in, USA and conducted his excellent presentation via Skype. 

The event provided the opportunity to share findings from the Mapping and Assessing the Underworld projects, which examine the practical problems, costs and dangers for utility owners, contractors and road users when failing to accurately identify the location of existing buried assets. It also provided an industry perspective of the success of PAS128 ‘Specification for underground utility detection, verification and location’, which was designed to improve the utility surveying industry and provide a more professional service to clients.

Nicole said: ‘It was a great pleasure to work with the ICE West Midlands branch on putting this CPD event together. It is these events that allow us to share our research with engineering professionals and share our passion to increase safety when carrying out any ground investigation by reducing the risk of undetected buries pipes and cables’.