A to Z challenge – U

tilities or Underground Assets or Services are known more simply as Gas, Electricity, Water, Drainage and Sewerage. Early attention to these assets needs to be taken in any building project as these come into play in some way or another. This is true even if it is as simple a task as turning them off while work is being done and then turning them back on. Important information for the architect , planner and contractor to know as early as possible is what utilities are present. What they will need to establish is not only where any pipes and or cables are and run but also their size and position / depth. Very often acquiring accurate information, particularly on drainage runs and the depths and inverts of drains, will require a topographical survey. This information is vital when drawings are being prepared so that any planning application to help to prove that drains will run and meet Building Control approvals.

Information will also need to be found about where many of these services are found in the street adjoining the property and this can be done via a streetworks search to each utility provider for the area. Even when all this information has been obtained it is vital that the conditions governing the easements in which the utilities are laid are established and understood, ideally making contact with the utility provide as early as possible. This can even be the case if the work taking place near to an asset is as simple installing some fencing.

A mistake when dealing with Underground Assets such as Electricity or Gas could prove fatal. Equally, interrupting an electricity supply by digging through a main cable using a JCB could not only prove fatal but might lead to a massive insurance claim for consequential losses from third parties in addition to the added costs to the project itself. Other considerations involving utilities may include making arrangements to maintain supplies if other parts of the property are being used regularly or making alternative arrangements such as a generator for electricity for the duration of the project. In any and every event, the key thing is to have as much information as possible to hand BEFORE any work takes place and that when the project is about to start, to make sure that the Contractors Dial before they dig.