Lessons Learned: Utility Designation Overseas

Lessons Learned: Utility Designation Overseas

by Dimitri Payne

The prospect of flying halfway around the world for a project involving utility designation might seem like an exciting but nearly impossible task. When the opportunity came around for my firm, Utility Professionals Inc (UPI), I jumped at the chance. The challenges I tackled made me a better utility designator. I picked up a few lessons learned that I hope can do the same for you.

Base Naval de Rota is nestled on the western coast of Spain in the city of Rota, Cadiz. Home to the U.S. Naval Forces Europe, the base is the largest American military community in Spain, housing more than 3,000 U.S. Navy sailors, Marines and their families. Since it was established in 1953, the base is now in the process of updating and improving their infrastructure to support their growing population, which was how my firm got involved. UPI was brought on board in early 2019 to provide utility designation services to help create mapping for the expansion of the base.

The challenges of providing utility designation services overseas including traveling with equipment, lack of existing plans, and even wildlife did not stop us from completing our mission. At the end of our stint, the experience and hospitality we received will ever stay within our minds and provides the excitement to one day return. Here is how we dealt with some of the more difficult challenges that came along with utility designation overseas.

Shop Local

Traveling is expensive. Traveling with equipment, supplies and essentials, or shipping to the hotel, was not feasible, and so our team had to create a solution to ensure we had the tools needed to accomplish the work. We enlisted the help of a local hardware store that we visited and got many of our typical tools. Not all the tools we have here in the states were available, so in some cases we had to improvise. The tool I missed the most was the paint stick to hold the paint. I had to hand paint each mark for over 100 acres!

Enlist Allies

Working in older areas, we always look for plans and as-builts to help us in our prospecting of utilities, giving us an edge to know what to expect. When visiting the local department, we found that a staff member working on the base for over 30 years provided better information than the plans recovered. With an impeccable memory and many great stories, he helped us find out where undetectable utilities lie. 

Respect Native Wildlife

Nothing prepared us for the biggest challenge — wildlife.  Many of the sandy and palm tree-lined areas included dense shrubs that needed to be cleared. While planning, we could not remove any shrubs unless an environmentalist confirmed that the area was outside the homes of an endangered species, the chameleon. To keep the chameleons’ habitats safe, we omitted mapping those portions of the site.

Give Back

Utility locating services brought UPI to Rota, however we got the opportunity to experience much more. Instead of disposing of tools and used and unused PPE, we donated everything to the Self-Help Program, which capitalizes on the skill levels and manpower of Navy personnel to perform minor maintenance and saves the Navy money.

The experience we gained, both externally and internally, made us understand and appreciate the success of our mission. We look forward to completing more projects overseas in 2020, including projects in Africa and Germany, where we will apply the lessons we learned in Spain and tackle new, exciting challenges.

Originally published in dp-PRO March 2020 edition.

Dimitri Payne Promoted to Utility Coordinator

Dimitri Payne Promoted to Utility Coordinator

Utility Professionals Inc (UPI) is excited to share Dimitri Payne has been promoted to Utility Coordinator.

Dimitri has over sixteen years of experience in the subsurface utility designating and locating industry throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland + the Washington, DC Metro area. With that experience, Dimitri brings vast technical knowledge, as well strong teamwork and leadership skills. Over the past sixteen years, Dimitri has become well versed in all aspects of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) including ground penetrating radar (GPR), test hole excavation + and utility designating and mapping.  Dimitri also has a background in quality control/quality assurance, damage investigations, field supervision + and project management. Additionally, he has international SUE experience, as he was the senior lead technician on UPI’s most notable project to date at Rota Naval Base in Rota, Spain.

In his new role, Dimitri will be responsible for partnering with UPI’s clients on projects throughout the Washington Metropolitan area and providing excellent customer service. Additionally, he will manage the UPI field crew and coordinate schedules. With his extensive background in utility designation, he is a perfect fit for this role. We look forward to Dimitri’s future with UPI.

Leewood Health and Rehab Center – Case Study

Case Study
Client: Scott-Long Construction
Project: Leewood Health and Rehab Center – Annandale, VA

Scott-Long Construction did their due diligence at their new construction site by calling the free utility locating service, as required. The free service went to the job site and marked where the underground public utilities would be found. Scott-Long opted to also have UPI come to the site to verify all the utilities were marked, when it was discovered that the public utilities had been mismarked.

Of special importance, UPI found a utility line that veered to the right into a sidewalk where Scott-Long had plans to start digging. If the general contractor hadn’t called UPI to do a quality review of the site, they would have faced:

  • Costs to fix the utility line that would have been struck
  • Redesign fees to account for the utility line
  • Schedule delays to the project; the time to repair a damaged utility line always varies

UPI saved Scott-Long time, money, and project delays – a goal we are committed to accomplishing for all firms in charge of site work. Email us to get our crews out on your next project.

UPI Launches New Brand – Press Release



UPI Launches New Brand

Prince William, VA – April 30, 2018 – UPI (Utility Professionals Inc) is pleased to announce the launch of our new brand, logo, and a renovated website. In its fourth year of business, UPI is a well-established subsurface utility engineering (SUE) firm. The brand is intended to match the firm’s credibility.

Each aspect of the new branding symbolizes how business is conducted at UPI. The bright colors and distinguished fonts represent liveliness, energy, and clarity—the same approach taken with all projects.

“I am confident our updated presence will help better connect our clients and contacts with our company, strengthening relationships and fostering continued growth,” says Jeff Smith, President of UPI.

To view the new look of UPI, visit www.utilityprofessionalsinc.com.


About UPI

UPI (Utility Professionals Inc) was founded in 2014 and is a thriving utility locating business serving the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area. We offer Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), utility designation, and utility mapping of underground utilities. UPI also performs records research prior to any utility mapping or designating. We use innovative technologies and equipment to detect the presence of subsurface utilities and mark the horizontal position on the ground surface. Our services follow the standard of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) C-I 38-02, Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data.

Contact: Christopher Fillmore, LS | Vice President | chrisfillmore@utilpro-inc.com | (703) 334-5657

SUE Quality Levels: What You Need to Know + How UPI Helps

SUE Quality Levels: What You Need to Know + How UPI Helps

UPI follows the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) standards when performing Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) services. Under these standards, there are four different Quality Levels we provide:

Quality Level D provides utility records research and/or as-builts for the vendor or county/city research. This is preliminary work when you just want to know what companies have underground utilities within your site. Obtaining plans from utility companies on your own can be time-consuming and frustrating. UPI already has relationships with local utility companies and we have the appropriate contacts needed to get plans—getting the information into your hands that much quicker.

Quality Level C is also preliminary work and identifies above-ground features such as pedestals, transformers, switches, fire hydrants, etc. This information is useful if you’re expanding your building and need to know what is conflicting and needs to be moved.

Quality Level B is the most widely used. This is when we’re out in the field utilizing advanced equipment to detect the underground utilities and putting paint marks on the ground. Quality Level B should be used on any type of project that involves excavation or simply needs accurate utility mapping in a given area. A special service UPI offers is a comprehensive, easy-to-interpret deliverable that maps out all of the underground utilities. We provide the deliverable in PDF and CAD, so your project manager can use it when developing the site. It’s also a great resource to hang in your construction trailer during construction. Having the deliverable also means you have a record of what’s in the ground in case construction doesn’t start for several months.

Quality Level A is the most involved service that entails test pitting. UPI currently facilitates this service through a subcontractor, however, we are on-site for the duration of test pitting to assist with any complications. We also provide a test pit report to clients that details exactly where the utility is in the field, the depth and elevation we measured, a Northing and Easting to compute to CAD form, and more.

For any more information on the SUE quality levels we provide, or to get a project started with UPI, give us a shout at (703) 334-5657 or fill out our RFP form, and we will respond back in less than 12 hours.