Since 1958, Underhill has completed over 1,000 projects for BC Hydro and its predecessor the BC Electric Co., in the fields of engineering, surveying, mapping, GIS, software development, and facilities management.
In 1991, Underhill Geographic Systems Ltd. (UGSL) was successful in obtaining a major portion of BC Hydro’s initial GeoFacilities Information System (GFIS) conversion project. This project was described in the industry as
one of the most aggressive conversion projects ever undertaken. Hydro’s conversion schedule called for the entire system to be converted in two years
… which is two to five times faster than other GIS conversion projects of similar size and scope. 
BC Hydro serves 1.4 million customers in a territory that covers more than 72,000 square kilometres (45,000 sq. mi.). The project included conversion of overhead and underground primary and secondary electrical facility information, and digital land base development. Also involved on the Underhill team were Kilborn Engineering Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., and GeoTechnology International (GTI) of Denver, Colorado. Note: as of 2011, GTI was acquired by Intelligraphics International, which was acquired by Analytical Surveys, Inc. (ASI), which was acquired by RAMTeCH Corp.
UGSL was awarded the Lower Mainland (Metro Vancouver) and Vancouver Island divisions of the project. These areas cover the two largest metropolitan centres in the province: Vancouver and Victoria. Over 1.5 million overhead and underground electrical facilities and their attributes, on some 5,500 map sheets, were converted during this project. BC Hydro’s accuracy requirements were 100% for the digital model and 99% with respect to the source documents. UGSL met or exceeded these requirements in all returns. This project represented UGSL’s first IBM GFIS contract.
To meet the project schedule and achieve the rigid accuracy standards, UGSL developed a methodology which utilized, in-house developed, specialized digitizing and quality control software.
The electrical facilities digitizing was carried out in the IBM GFIS environment on a dozen PS/2 workstations powered by an IBM 4381 dual processor mainframe computer. Working around the clock up to three shifts per day were required at the peak of production.
The land features were digitized by Kilborn Engineering, in Intergraph MicroStation PC. The land data were merged with the electrical data after translation from Intergraph to IBM GFIS. This custom translator was written by UGSL. This method, executed by a qualified staff trained by our in-house program, enabled us to complete the project successfully.
Subsequent to the completion of the initial project, UGSL was awarded further conversion work in Vancouver. BC Hydro had originally planned to do this work in-house, due to the complexity and density of the facilities. UGSL’s performance in the initial GFIS contract gave BC Hydro the confidence that Underhill could complete this area.
Read the full GIS World article B.C. Hydro Automates a Province.
In conjunction with the original BC Hydro GFIS conversion contract, UGSL was successful in 1990 in obtaining a contract to produce a field inventory of the overhead distribution system in the Lower Mainland of B.C. This project involved:
Read our paper Automated Field Inventory for GIS Data Conversion, presented at CISM/ACSG’92.
The Joint Use Administration (JUA) is a partnership between BC Hydro and BC Tel for the joint management of some 800,000 power poles throughout BC.
Upon seeing UGSL’s automated data collection for electrical field inventory, the JUA contracted UGSL in 1991 to develop a similar system for inventory for Joint Use information. A first-generation system utilizing Covalis Micro-Technology MC-V hand-held data collectors was implemented. The system allowed for the extraction of pole data records from Hydro’s IBM DB/2 database, editing of the records in the field, and posting of the data back to DB/2. The system also included a notebook-based file management system to interface the mainframe and handheld worlds.
In May of 1993 UGSL obtained follow-on work for update, conversion and field inventory of a number of areas not converted in the initial GFIS project. More specifically this work included:
Once BC Hydro field crews had reconciled its customer and distribution GIS databases using Underhill’s electrical GIS technology Distribution Circuit Builder—called Copan FM–Electric—it needed help in cleaning up the data migrated from it’s IBM GFIS GIS.
See our BC Hydro – Customized Field Mapping and Editing Software project.
Underhill was contracted, in 2001, to provide GIS/CAD operators as part of the migration of their existing GFIS GIS data to their new Smallworld-based Enterprise GIS (EGIS). Underhill operators worked within the BC Hydro office in Burnaby. In all, five Underhill employees worked on the conversion of UDD and DOD sheets in GE Smallworld.