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UESI Divisions Present Sessions at First ASCE V-Tech Conference

Saturday, October 10, 2020

In September 2020, the first ASCE Virtual Technical Conference was presented. This conference featured technical content from all of ASCE's 9 Institutes and other technical divisions. The worldwide audience enjoyed sessions on a wide array of topics including from UESI.

During the first conference, UESI's Utility Asset Management and Utility Risk Divisions presented multidiscipline sessions to an audience we typically don't reach. Below are some comments from the session presenters on what they presented, how they chose this topic, and their audience's response.

Utility Risk Management Division - Monday, September 14

The title of Cesar Quiroga's presentation was "Every Project Needs a Good Utility Engineer." This presentation was the first one in the session. Its goal was to set a framework for the other presentations. This was done by explaining the concept of utility engineering, how utility engineering fits within the project delivery process, and the set of skills (using the six pillars of utility engineering as the foundation) that a good utility engineer should have to be effective. The presentation was well received with several questions from participants. There was a follow-up request about points of contact in Pennsylvania related to a potential UESI chapter in Pittsburgh.  

Phil Meis spoke on the topic, "Challenges of 3D Utility Models During Project Development and Delivery." Despite the fact that the technology exist to perform 3D utility investigations and modeling, and tremendous value can be reaped on projects, there are 3 major obstacles, which are surprisingly political in nature, that prevent implementation or restrict achieving full value:   

  1. Project owners or managers are more focused on short-term economics rather than long-term, so they opt to cut corners to save during design, but pay dearly for passing the risk along during construction;
  2. Project stakeholders simply don't realize the capabilities and value of a properly executed SUE utility investigation and how that information can be leveraged for a myriad of benefits; and
  3. There are conventions in place for DB and DBB and CMGC (namely the use of massive potholing campaigns by contractors) that need to be reduced and replaced with utility engineering best practices and technologies promoted by the ASCE UESI and CI.

The other main point made is that these models are imperfect and a continual work-in-progress that require proper annotation and a good asset management program with ongoing standardized "as-installed" data collection.

Some in the audience asked "how deep can you go?" This indicates a lack of understanding regarding SUE in that there isn't any one technology for investigating and "imaging" or modeling infrastructure. Instead, there is a standardized approach using an array of tools and methods, each of which is limited in capabilities, that are applied using professional judgement and based on the actual conditions, project needs and priorities, budget and schedule constraints, and perceived risk to the project. The outcome is an interpretation of this data set to create a working engineering product to greatly enhance project development, delivery, and subsequent emergency response, asset management, ROW maintenance and planning, among other uses.

Lawrence Arcand presented, "How to Manage Utility Risk on Mega-Transportation Projects."  He chose this because he sees the topic as a real world, very relevant issue for anyone who deals with utilities on large scale projects.

Jim Anspach spoke on the topic, "Are Your Digital Twins Fraternal or Identical?" There's been a lot of buzz in the GIS and survey world lately about digital twins as an asset management tool. Part of a digital twin is a 3D model. When that 3D model depicts an underground environment including utilities, the digital twin becomes uncertain. Its quality is dependent upon the data density and the means and methods and judgment of the person collecting and interpreting the data. As such, the implication of a twin when referring to the underground should not be that of an identical twin, but that of a fraternal one. Engineers and other practitioners need to be cognizant of the implication of these terms.

Utility Asset Management Division - Tuesday, September 15

Jim Anspach's presentation, "Utility Asset Management for Campuses," was an introductory explanation of a Manual of Practice activity at UESI. Campuses have a unique blend of private and public utilities, master-metered utilities, and operational needs. Campuses are continually undergoing repurposing of facilities and expansion. Knowing what exists and where your utility assets are positioned are critical to operating them in a sustainable and resilient fashion.

Dick Steig spoke about, "Asset Management Practice for Electrical Transmission System." Power delivery asset management is an imperative for the utility industry as it faces both grid modernization (SMART cities, distributed energy resources, electric vehicles, IoT, etc.) and climate change. Which threaten an increasing frequency and severity of weather and natural events. Although ASCE is not as deeply involved in the power industry as we are in other areas such as municipal and public works, there is a real opportunity to enter this area especially in regards to emerging changes to that industry going forward.