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Surveys in degrees

IT New technology

A new online system for utility location is saving time and money at a UK university.

Bernadette Redfern reports.

In 2004 Manchester University merged with the, until then separate, University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology (UMIST), triggering a £300M ($534M) capital works programme to renovate and reconstruct many of the combined facilities.

To ensure the smooth running of Project Unity, Manchester University wanted to provide its contractors with accurate and complete survey information.

But this was easier said than done as an enormous number of services, some present since the 1800s, snaked below the university grounds. Many of these had been abandoned. And no one organisation had taken responsibility for locating and mapping them.

'Initially we just wanted to trace the high voltage (HV) cables but then we decided to go a step further and find everything, ' says university assistant electrical engineer Andy Belcher. Consultant 40seven operations director Wayne Fawcett says this was far from straightforward, however.

'The data given to the university by utility companies was out of date and inaccurate.'

In June 2004 it began a nine month survey using ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic techniques and CCTV.

As survey teams went out and collected information, 40seven technicians fed it into AutoCAD drawings, which were then uploaded on to a website.

'We could have used an online GIS system with databases behind it but in the end we didn't want to add more complex software. People on site want site drawings, and that is how the information is displayed, ' Fawcett says.

These drawings are constantly evolving. 'The university is in a state of ux and new services are constantly going in. It was potentially a logistical nightmare, ' says Belcher. But as new services are added, Belcher, aided by Project Unity infrastructure consultant DSSR, ensures that this data is passed on to 40seven to map.

'There are 16 drawings at the moment and these are being progressively updated, ' says 40seven information development manager Matthew Todd. 'Every site user has a unique password which can be programmed to expire after a set period, ' says Todd. 'This gives us accountability, ' adds Belcher.

'If someone was to hit a service we would know who has or hasn't been checking the drawings.

It is a condition of contract for companies to use this data - it is all about diminishing the risk.'

As a prominent research establishment, disruption to the university's power or water supplies could be catastrophic.

'Initially the CAD drawings were accurate to -400mm and we soon realised that the OS tile wasn't precise enough, ' says Fawcett. 'We needed to insert topographic information to make the location more accurate.'

'At the moment there are six buildings going up, all worth around £40M, and contractors at each site have done topographic surveys. We fed this information into 40seven and continue to do so, ' says DSSR project manager Tony Malkin.

The survey data now covers the university campus but this is set to increase as the teams begin to map the UMIST sites.

'We are starting to find that this information is going beyond simply providing utility locations for contractors. The re brigade used it last week to check the location of hydrants, ' says Fawcett.

Making information available to key stakeholders is exactly what the university intended.

Vibration measure

Designing out the risk of on site injuries caused by the prolonged use of vibrating tools has been tackled by bolt and equipment manufacturer Hilti, which has developed new fixings design software.

Since 1998 the number of people in the UK with advanced stages of vibration white finger, caused by vibration from handheld tools, has soared from 36,000 to 300,000. Last year 3,000 construction claims were settled with an average pay-out of £20,000 ($35,000).

Hilti's Profis software allows designers to assess the health implications of their fixings specifications, the firm claims.

The level of vibration exposure from up to four different anchor solutions can be compared, and the package will identify the best drilling machine for the task.

The software will also assess the time that will be needed to complete bolt installation in accordance with the latest health and safety legislation.

Last July the UK adopted the European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive. This places responsibility for vibration-related damage on contractors by setting strict vibration exposure limits for their employees.

But the UK is also putting pressure on designers to reduce risks before jobs go on site, through the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the CDM Regulations. The Health & Safety Executive has specifically called on designers and main contractors to act by designing out the need for vibration.

'Under CDM, designers have a responsibility to make projects safer. Selecting the right tool and anchors has a major impact on vibration and vibrationrelated injuries, ' says Hilti anchor product manager Carlos Taborda.

Profis can be freely downloaded at www. hilti. co. uk

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