Digital Construction Awards 2024: National Underground Asset Register wins Digital Innovation in Productivity

The Geospatial Commission and AtkinsRéalis winning Digital Innovation in Productivity at the Digital Construction Awards 2024
The Geospatial Commission and AtkinsRéalis team collect their trophy from Ollie Hughes of Digital Construction Week (left), Tom Allen (second right) and Katie Armstrong of Dassault Systèmes (Photo © 2024 – ASV Photography Ltd.

The National Underground Asset Register, developed by the Geospatial Commission and AtkinsRéalis, won Digital Innovation in Productivity, sponsored by Dassault Systèmes, at the Digital Construction Awards last night (2 July).

The Geospatial Commission and AtkinsRéalis are building the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) – an interactive digital map of underground pipes and cables that will improve safe digging and reduce accidental strikes.

Category sponsor

There are an estimated four million kilometres of underground pipes and cables across the UK. A hole is dug every seven seconds to install, fix and maintain them. Each of the more than 700 owners of these assets is legally required to share data for ‘safe digging’. However, there is currently no standardised method for this, with multiple organisations having to be contacted for each dig, providing information in varied formats and to different timelines.

This results in an estimated 60,000 accidental strikes on these pipes and cables every year, putting workers’ safety and lives at risk, in addition to community disruption which costs the UK economy £2.4bn annually.

For the build phase, AtkinsRéalis faced three main project challenges:

  • to engage with and collect data from more than 700 asset owners;
  • to transform and ingest this data into a single comprehensive database; and
  • to develop a secure portal through which users can view and access this information.

Data transformation

AtkinsRéalis brought data transformation specialist 1Spatial into the team to help address this challenge – developing and adapting a range of tools to manage this data transformation and minimise the need for human intervention. 

The user portal was developed collaboratively with users from the outset.

“An innovative entry. Its utilisation and further development is only limited by imagination. With additional support of utility companies, government agencies and other stakeholders, this is an exemplar with the possibility to expand with additional content and features, leading to even more efficient asset management, safety practices and improved decision-making.”

What the judges said

NUAR gives planners and excavators standardised, secure, instant access to the data they need, when they need it, to carry out work effectively and safely. It also reduces the time it takes to get location data from 6.1 days to 60 seconds.

An initial version of NUAR is now available across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It already includes data from major energy, water and telecommunication companies, transport organisations, and local authorities.

NUAR is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2025, when it is estimated it will deliver £490m of economic growth annually through reduced accidental damage, increased efficiency, and reduced community disruption.

Joss Newman, communications lead at AtkinsRéalis, said: "Our project is all about collaboration. First, the project team itself is a collaboration, then you’ve got around 200 asset owners that have already signed up for the platform to start sharing data, and then there are thousands of users who are engaging with the platform and giving us feedback. Without all those people collaborating, we wouldn’t be able to deliver the project. It is great to be recognised for essentially delivering performance improvement."

  • Buildots
  • Geospatial Commission/AtkinsRéalis | The National Underground Asset Register
  • JCB – LiveLink: Case Support Management
  • John Sisk & Son | Concrete Roads Framework     
  • Laing O’Rourke/AtkinsRéalis/VolkerRail | Geographical Information System on East West Rail
  • L Lynch | The Operator App and the Customer App
  • Teknobuilt | Accelerating Data Centre Construction Delivery
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