Ramble On

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Interpreting Pavement Paint

A few years ago I was at another large engineering firm, and just like these days, I watched a large development going up across the street. The construction technique back then was a structural steel building as opposed to the one I am watching as part of the "Clarendon Construction" series of posts, where concrete floor slabs have been poored floor by floor.

One of my interesting experiences at that other floor was a little ISO-like exercise we did. Since we were often involved in the construction or modification of critical facilities such as data centers or air traffic control centers - buildings where a large amount of critical infrastructure, like water, electricity, or communications, serves the building just underground. Any time that the ground service might be disturbed, or where serious digging was required, it was important to analyze whether critical infrastructure might be nearby to avoid damaging it.

We wanted to design new damage avoidance practices, so a "tiger team" of us flew off to Dallas to attend a series of seminars on preventing damage to the underground infrastructure.

During the course of this conference, I learned about some fascinating aspects of this industry. Whether it was about the establishment of "Miss Utility" services in Texas or Colorado, or about new ground penetrating radars, or simply about code guidance on how to mark locations, the conference was simply eye-opening for me. For weeks afterwards I was identifying what sorts of infrastructure was underfoot based on the residual paint markings of past projects.

So as I walk around the Clarendon neighborhood, with this major construction underway (and a couple of other interesting projects about to get underway) I started noticing how much paint there is on the pavement nearby, and taking some phone cam shots. Here are some photos showing some of the complex layouts of what kind of infrastructure is often underfoot in a city or suburban street.

The color codes are: blue-water lines; green-sewer lines; red-electrical lines; yellow-gas lines (often the pipe size is noted too); and orange-telecommunications lines, which are mostly fiber optics these days, and their owner is often noted along the course of their runs. I tried to get as many examples as I could in these shots, and was especially interested in finding places where two or three of these items were in close proximity.


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