Lambert Field Subsurface Utility Engineering Project

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Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri, stands as a landmark project in the history of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) within the United States.

This case study delves into the project's utilization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2003 policy on SUE as both a design and damage prevention tool.

The project's significance is further underscored by its location, with portions extending into the Air National Guard base, necessitating unprecedented coordination and control over the equipment and methodologies employed in detecting subsurface utilities.

Project Overview

The Lambert Field project was initiated to enhance the accuracy of subsurface utility mapping and to prevent damage to existing utilities during construction activities.

This initiative was particularly challenging due to the sensitive nature of the project site, including areas within an Air National Guard base, which required meticulous planning and execution.


Utilize SUE Techniques: To apply subsurface utility engineering methodologies to accurately locate and map underground utilities, thereby minimizing construction delays and preventing utility damage.

Ensure Non-Interference with FAA Communications: To conduct all subsurface exploration activities without interfering with critical FAA communications, a key requirement given the project’s airport location.

Coordinate with Air National Guard: To closely coordinate activities with the base munitions officer to ensure that the frequencies and power of pipe and cable locating equipment did not compromise base security or operations.

Methodologies Employed

The project team employed a variety of technologies and techniques, each selected for its efficacy and non-interference with critical communications.

Specific Pipe and Cable Locators: Devices with acceptable frequencies were chosen to avoid interference with military and FAA operations.

Magnetic Tools and Magnetometers: These were used for their precision in locating metallic subsurface utilities without emitting disruptive electromagnetic fields.

Insertion Techniques and Terrain Conductivity: These methods provided detailed information on subsurface conditions, facilitating accurate utility mapping.

Elastic Wave Techniques: Utilized for their ability to detect non-metallic utilities and to provide a comprehensive understanding of subsurface structures.

Discrete Area Coupling Methods: These methods were applied to enhance the accuracy of utility detection in specific, challenging areas of the site.

Notably, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) was deliberately excluded from the suite of technologies used due to its potential to interfere with FAA communications.

Security and Discovery

A significant security benefit emerged during the project when an unsecured large diameter sewer pipeline, not previously recorded in utility records, was discovered running from off-base directly beneath the munitions storage area.

This discovery underscored the critical importance of thorough subsurface utility engineering in safeguarding sensitive areas.

Outcomes and Impact

The Lambert Field project not only achieved its objectives but also set a precedent for future SUE projects, especially in sensitive or highly regulated environments.

The methodologies and coordination strategies developed and implemented during this project have provided a blueprint for effective subsurface utility engineering that balances operational efficiency with security considerations.

Key Achievements.

Enhanced Safety and Security: The discovery and subsequent securing of an unrecorded sewer pipeline significantly mitigated potential security risks.

Non-Interference with Critical Communications: The project was completed without disrupting FAA or military communications, demonstrating the efficacy of the selected technologies and methodologies.

Precedent for Future Projects: Lambert Field's project serves as a case study for the integration of SUE in complex environments, emphasizing the importance of technology selection and interagency coordination.


The Lambert Field subsurface utility engineering project exemplifies how careful planning, technological adaptation, and interagency cooperation can overcome the challenges of utility detection in sensitive and complex environments.

By prioritizing non-interference with critical communications and security considerations, the project not only achieved its immediate objectives but also contributed to the broader field of SUE, offering valuable insights and methodologies for future projects.

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