News & Events

SAM Receives Engineering Excellence Award for South Carolina Project

SAM is pleased to be a winner in the 2018 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) South Carolina Engineering Excellence Awards. The firm won in the Surveying and Mapping Technology Category with a project completed for the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). SAM provided an innovative Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) solution using terrestrial HDS scanning for an underground utility tunnel on the S-3054 South Main Streetscaping Improvements project in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to the ACEC South Carolina award, the project also won a National Recognition Award in the Surveying and Mapping Technology category of the ACEC National Award Gala held in Washington, DC on April 17, 2018.

The ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards are held by the American Council of Engineering Companies to "honor and recognize outstanding achievements within the engineering community." SAM has previously won several other ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards, at both the regional and national level, including another Silver Award this year for an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) inspection project in Texas. (Read more.)

About The Project

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) builds and maintains roads and bridges, and administers mass transit services in the state of South Carolina. SAM acted as a prime consultant for SCDOT on this streetscape improvement project located immediately adjacent to the South Carolina State House and office buildings. It extends from Pendleton Street to College Street, in a southwesterly direction. The purpose of this work was to provide SCDOT with underground utility mapping information for the project area. SAM also provided additional terrestrial scanning and related deliverables.

The SUE scope of services included designating at Quality Levels “B”, “C”, and “D”, gravity sewer survey services (gravity sewer manhole), and overhead utility investigations and reporting. SAM completed approximately 49,200 linear feet of underground utilities at Quality Level “B”, 6,900 linear feet of utilities at Quality Level “C”, recording of information for approximately 50 gravity sewer manholes, and overhead utility investigations and reporting for six intersections within the project limits. All work was performed to the applicable Quality Level in accordance with ASCE/C-I 38-02, the Standard Guideline for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data. SAM returned this project to SCDOT on schedule and within budget.

One of the unique aspects of this project was identifying a multi-use utility tunnel under the roadway. When traditional SUE services were complete, SAM was tasked by the SCDOT to provide an overlay for depicting the underground utility service tunnel below the roadway in plan and profile. This became a separate project, which required elements of conventional survey, LiDAR scanning, safety (confined spaces), and final data reduction to properly display the images collected. Additionally, SCDOT asked to run a traverse and survey of the interior of the tunnel. SAM determined that other factors would be of use to SCDOT such as:

  • Condition of the tunnel structure (cracks, sag points, and water seepage/leaks)
  • Condition of the racks and utilities
  • Specific locations of the utilities and direction of entry and exit to the tunnel
  • Precise location of the tunnel and it’s geometry as it relates to surface features
  • The ability to share three dimensional data to the rest of the project team virtually

These factors resulted in the decision to utilize terrestrial scanning to scan the interior of the tunnel and street level in order to produce a 3D image, showing the utilities, as well as, any compromises to the integrity of the structure. This helped to gather additional high-quality utility data and accurate detail in a significantly shorter project timeline.

Survey points were set inside the tunnel through two existing manholes. A baseline was established within the tunnel, using the two control points. This allowed for a comprehensive model, in the same coordinate system, to be created for the entire project limits, above and below ground. SAM managed the conventional survey requirements and the scanning operations. Considerable creativity was required to complete the survey due to conditions (heat/humidity), various tunnel offsets, and congestion of utilities in the tunnel. Additional challenges included:

  • Narrow tunnel made movement difficult
  • Heat was approximately 112 degrees
  • High humidity
  • Use flashlights and headlamps
  • Use of fan to help with the heat
  • Traffic Control
  • Personnel had to the be confined space certified

This project showcases how engineering evolves utilizing modern technology to solve problems. For ages, gathering information about a specific area, and adequately conveying as much information as possible to subsequent stakeholders has been a longstanding struggle. This project demonstrates that by utilizing cutting edge technology, we are able to depict, show, and explain geospatial data as realistically as possible. It points to the future trends of virtual reality and immersive project site visits that allow stakeholders to “visit” a site without having to incur the cost or danger of actually being there.

The social impact of this project is the ability for multiple stakeholders to see very realistic information about the area. This information is the highest and best available to allow people of all ages and education levels to view and understand the area and potential problems/issues. From the public hearing for citizens, to the operations and maintenance crews, the data is visually discernible and easily understood. To the experienced planner, engineer, designer or surveyor, it is made clear what is there, and what is not. To the SCDOT leadership and interested elected officials, it provides a high-tech way to ensure communication is clear to all.

The largest economic impact for this project is the ability to share data with a very large number of stakeholders, with the highest standard of safety. The city planners and engineers have a tool to be able to understand how potential designs impact real, three dimensional constraints, not just blue lines on a plan. This ultimately saves time and money on overall implementation of a solution. This solution and application is sustainable in its approach, because it lowers the cost of subsequent stakeholder site visits and the need for countless additional documentation of the actual conditions. Taking more time on a project such as this, impacts the cost and utilization of everything. From electricity, to gas, to paper, the more time people work on things, the more items are consumed. On every aspect, utilizing a terrestrial scan for this project conveys infinitely more information, with far less resources required.

Any project that needs to adequately convey three dimensional subterranean conditions is complicated. When the additional area needs to convey that information for multiple lines, types of utilities, and the need for subsequent stakeholders to be able to access, understand, and utilize the data for months and years to come, the complexity grows exponentially. By utilizing the modern scanning technology, SAM is able to convey this information in a concise format rather than what would otherwise be a complex set of two dimensional drawings, with both plan views, profiles, cross-sections and details and site photographs. The result is deliverables that are digestible and discernible images that have real world coordinates and spatial data combined in a single internet-viewing software.

SAM understood the team at the SCDOT and its stakeholders needed to be able to have a clear and articulate way to share what exactly is underground at the project. As a result, SAM decided to utilize conventional mapping, along with the delivery of a modern scan data set, so the information could be shared; safely, easily and efficiently.

This project was a unique opportunity to showcase how state-of-the-art surveying equipment is able to render a more powerful work deliverable to assist remote users understand on-site, real-world circumstances and conditions. By utilizing terrestrial scanning, SAM was able to deliver more accurate and detailed information, in a safe and convenient platform to the SCDOT and other stakeholders.

The project was executed over a two-day period during the summer of 2017 and returned to the SCDOT shortly thereafter. This new technology was deployed to deliver three-dimensional “smart” plans. By utilizing terrestrial scanning, images as well as modern viewing software, SAM delivered smarter collaboration for the SCDOT to share data anywhere, anytime on any device with internet access. This project showcased the capabilities of scanning technology and the ability of SAM to produce a truly unique and cutting edge work product.