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Dry utilities refer to the infrastructure and services that provide electricity, natural gas, and telecom to buildings and properties. These are called “dry” utilities because they do not involve the transportation or distribution of water, as opposed to wet utilities such as storm drains, sewage systems, water, and wastewater systems. We will highlight six examples of dry utilities, their uses, and the dry utility installation process.

6 Examples of Dry Utilities:

  1. Cable
  2. Electrical Power Lines
  3. Fiber Optics
  4. Natural Gas Pipelines
  5. Telephone
  6. Internet/TV

On the flip side, wet utilities refer to services that include water, such as storm drains, sewers, and water and wastewater systems.

What is Dry Utility Coordination?

Dry utility coordination is the process of coordinating the design and installation of the above dry utilities alongside other construction activities on a project. For this to happen, close communication and collaboration between the various project stakeholders is required.

As part of dry utility coordination, the project team conducts site visits to document slope angles, soil conditions, and site topography. This vital step ensures that the dry utilities are installed safely and efficiently in the most appropriate location without interfering with other underground infrastructure or project activities.

The engineered design will come as construction drawings. These are based upon the on-site conditions, including utility mapping and detailed notations on how the installation will comply with all regulations, codes, and required materials.

The Use of Trenches in Dry Utility Installation

Most dry installation projects start with a trench being dug to house these utilities. The next step is to excavate the trench and make use of high-quality instruments for laying the bedding and the installation of the utilities.
The cables are then encased with shading materials to safeguard them from any damage that could occur over time. Lastly, backfill services are completed.

It is crucial to find a specialized/qualified contractor, such as Muller, Inc., who can coordinate, plan, and execute the installation of telecommunications, data, electric, natural gas, cable, and telephone dry utility infrastructure. This is because working with electric and gas utilities is dangerous for anyone who is not a regulated and qualified contractor.

Coordination with engineers and the appropriate city and county departments required during construction will also be necessary at times. Inspections will also need to be performed regularly to ensure that each step has met all the essential criteria.

The Dry Utility Installation Process

The following dry utility steps are general advice and may not apply to all construction sites. The list should be reviewed, and the relevant steps selected.

•  Site Preparation: Prepare the site for construction, including clearing the area, grading the land, installing temporary access roads, and material storage.

•  Excavation: Safe excavation of trenches and installation of shoring when required per OSHA

•  Installation: Lay conduit per design, clean and test every conduit run, and install necessary equipment or fixtures.

•  Testing and Inspection: Clean and test every conduit run to ensure they function properly.

•  Encasement and Backfill: Concrete encasement and rebar installation are required when specified in the project design. Approved backfill material is placed overtop the duct bank to bring the trench to grade. A contractor is required to follow backfill and compaction standards throughout the entire project.

•  Restoration: The contract outlines the project restoration requirements, typically defined as permanent or temporary restoration. Use of temporary road patch, hot mix, concrete, topsoil, grass seed, straw, and orange or silt fence are used during this process.

•  Cable Pull: Qualified contractor pulls the required cable through the corresponding duct per the engineered design and in compliance with all industry safety installation and inspection procedures.

•  Final Connections: Qualified contractor safely connects the utilities to the main utility lines and service provider in accordance with industry safety and installation procedures.

•  Final Inspection: Coordinate final inspection with required project stakeholders and inspectors.

Joint Trenching

Joint trenching, also called common trenching, refers to burying different utilities together in the same trench. Joint trenching for service lines and main lines often happens when cabling and piping for electricity, gas, telecommunications, and water utilities have been safely engineered and approved for installation through the same ground trench. Joint trenching has several advantages, including cost savings and offering relief to underground congestion in high-development areas. Joint trenching typically follows the process described below:

•  Prepare the site as outlined above and excavate the trench wide enough for the utilities to be installed with the required spacing. It is critical that the process is in full compliance with the separation requirements for the utilities being installed.

•  Follow regulatory and project design instructions for what utility is to be installed first and the inspection requirements before the next utility installation commences.

•  Inspect and pressure test any previously installed wet utility sewer lines.

•  Conduct bacteriological testing on the water system.

•  Wet utilities should have a backfilling and compaction test inspection performed on them.

•  Perform a second water and sewer system test if necessary.

•  After the final inspections of both dry and wet utilities have been performed and approved, carry out any required backfill and compaction, hard surface paving, and restoration work.

•  Perform final inspections and testing for the installation of dry and wet utilities in addition to getting final approvals.

•  Remember that failing to comply with any of the specifications on the approved construction plan will cause construction to be suspended until these issues have been resolved, another inspection performed, and final approvals received.

Dry utilities are a crucial aspect of the building process and must be taken with utmost seriousness. All land developers need to make certain they are in complete compliance with the construction plan and all of the building codes. The best way to do this is to engage the services of professionals.

Muller, Inc. has worked with the above examples of dry utilities. We use the latest technology and equipment as well as an experienced team to handle all utility installations. Contact us today via our website or at 703-560-4040.