Underground asset recovery process explained

All building sites have utility infrastructure running underneath them. After a building is demolished, recovering this infrastructure is important to renew the ground for use and to offset demolition costs.

Asset recovery involves identifying, removing, and selling any valuable materials in a demolition project. Underground assets are usually underground utility infrastructure like pipework and electricity lines. Copper is a particularly valuable scrap metal. The process of recovering these assets is a difficult and laborious task because locating and identifying assets properly is not as simple as looking at a blueprint. Often, we do not know what’s buried where, which makes being efficient a challenge.

The process of recovering underground assets starts with reviewing site layout, site plans and site specifications where available. These can be sourced from the local council or sometimes the building firm who built the property. Site records should be available, and if they are then they should be used to point the contractor in the right direction. They should tell us where 50% or more infrastructure is.

The other 50% is the tricky part. Geophysical surveys are a good tool, because these reveal the structure of the ground beneath. They allow us to know what the ground composition is without digging it up. Rocky ground is unlikely to have any assets, whereas softer ground where metals can be used is. This can help a contractor avoid the trap of digging up swathes of area with nothing to show for it afterwards.

Metal detectors are another tool. Far from a novel approach to asset recovery, metal detectors help contractors identify where metals have been used in the ground. This can again help point them in the right direction. A strong signal would lead to the area being dug up to recover whatever metals are in the ground.

Both these techniques assist with idle asset identification and location mapping. While sometimes it is efficient to dig up a whole site and recover whatever is unearthed, where only a small amount of assets are recoverable it’s important to identify where they are so the spade can be struck in the right spot. This saves time and money by reducing inefficiency from the underground asset recovery process.

Recovering underground assets is not only important for financial gain, but for the environment and reuse of a site too. You can’t keep building on top of old infrastructure, so recovering assets is essential after demolition.

Underground assets are recovered by disturbing the ground by manual or mechanical means. It is often most efficient to dig the ground up using machine but sometimes assets are delicate and need digging up by hand. This is no problem for us, we specialise in doing both so we can recover as much as possible. If the wrong asset recovery technique is used, this may damage the assets and reduce their value.

After all assets have been recovered, they are either redeployed (used in other applications, for example concrete in construction) or divested (sold). Scrap metals are usually sold for scrap value. Gravel can also be sold. Wherever the resale value of an asset is high, it will be sold to recover costs. It is not unusual for local salvage and scrap yards to make contact with contractors to enquire about the assets in question first.

It is up to you what you do with the assets. You may wish to recycle them, resell them, or keep them. If you would like help with any of these next steps, we would be happy to help you as we have many customers before.

We have a great deal of experience recovering underground assets. We will identify, strip, remove and safely transport assets to a location of your designation. If you would like to find out more about our services or discuss a new project, please call us on 0113 255 8919 or complete our enquiry form here and we will be in touch.

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