December 2022 Vol. 77 No. 12

Editor's Log

Editor’s Log: Transitions

Robert Carpenter | Editor-in-Chief 

In 2023, Underground Construction Morphs into Underground Infrastructure 

(UI) — The title Underground Construction has served our magazine well for the past 25 years when, in January 1997, the publication moved away from traditional oil and gas pipeline construction-centric coverage to a broad-based utility and pipeline focus. The name changed from Pipeline & Utilities Construction to the more appropriate Underground Construction. 

That move placed Underground Construction in an improved position to pursue the evolving market realities and directions. While Underground Construction’s editorial focus had steadily been shifting direction into increased utility construction coverage since late 1992, this name change established to our readership base our intention to cover a broader editorial range. Pipeline construction was still included, but relegated to a role more in line with the overall markets. 

Today, shifting market trends, dynamics and technologies have applied a similar rationale for modifying the magazine’s image and focus. The underground industries are far more than just construction. Rather, that sector is now joined by rehabilitation and asset management as the clear direction for all underground markets. 

Thus, in 2023, Underground Construction will again experience a metamorphosis to the new, evolved underground marketplace by becoming Underground Infrastructure. 

The established buzzwords of any company working in sewer, water, stormwater, fiber, power, gas distribution and pipeline construction, “underground infrastructure” has become the all-encompassing term for the markets we cover. In fact, “infrastructure” has become an extremely hot political and public area of focus, concern and support through North American. The well-known infrastructure spending bill has pumped billions into the underground markets for 2022 and is on course to continue through 2027, and possibly beyond. 

While the various elements remain the same, the name change will better reflect our market position as the comprehensive leader of all things underground. The crux of this repositioning will center around our new subtitles: Construction, Rehabilitation & Asset Management. These three sectors comprise the core of the underground infrastructure. 

For example, just in the sewer and water markets, rehabilitation of underground piping systems has grown from an investment of less than $1 billion dollars in 2002 to surpassing $10.4 billion in 2022. In the gas distribution industry, an estimated $15–$20 billion will be invested over the next 10 years just to replace the remaining cast iron pipe. In the energy pipeline markets, consistent and stringent regulations dictate a steady expenditure to ensure integrity management for all pipelines. In all these markets, technology advances occur at a rapid pace. 

New construction spending is on a record pace, as well, for the foreseeable future. An estimated $12.5 billion will be invested in sewer/water/stormwater, just in 2022. The blazing hot fiber market received more than $50 billion over five years, from the infrastructure bill. to construct fiber optic systems in rural and underserved population areas – in addition to the billions that private companies are already investing. 

Further, the electric industry was also awarded approximately $60 billion to “harden” its systems, principally to ensure that the electric grid can manage climate extremes. The past decade of record and frequent snow and ice storms, hurricanes, tornados and many other such weather events, alone, has proven overhead systems can no longer be considered reliable. 

It’s no surprise that the top option by utilities to harden their systems is to place transmission and electric lines underground. Now, with the help of federal dollars, it has become a practical solution. 

Asset management has taken on a continuously broader meaning for underground infrastructure. Since the turn of the century, continuous programs and technology have been developed and launched that allow cities to more accurately track and account for the status of their piping systems. Technology advancements have turned the possibilities of asset management into realities with advances in cameras, laser profiling and even satellites. 

In addition, constant monitoring of the location and status of machinery has spread to virtually all construction equipment. Routine predictive maintenance or pre-emptive alerts allow equipment managers to better maintain their fleet and keep it running in top condition without issue. 

Having these increasing options not only provides critical intelligence, as utilities manage the condition of their systems and contractors maintain their equipment fleets, but it also has saved extraordinary amounts of money by better focusing ongoing repair and maintenance of those systems. 

Coverage of these areas adds up to an exciting, dynamic and editorially challenging task. But Underground Infrastructure will continue to serve all underground markets through an organized, improved editorial filter that is consistently reflective of construction, rehabilitation and asset management – the clear drivers of our market.

Related Articles

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}