Location Naming Conventions

One of the most important data management principles you must have clearly agreed before you start a project is the location naming conventions.

This seems the simplest of suggestions and I expect readers of this article to fall into one of two camps; either you have not experienced problems associated with naming conventions and you possibly think this is a patronising statement, or you are nodding your head in agreement and having a few cold sweats while reliving some of the more costly disputes with clients or laboratories.

The first question to ask is “Who is assigning the location IDs?” In the vast majority of projects the client will not have an opinion on what the boreholes, wells or sampling locations are called as they will refer to them mainly from the location map you provide them.

However, if you are working on a large project with multiple contractors, or a job that has had previous site investigation work on it, then the client may request that you use a specific naming convention. This may be something along the lines of a year prefix (BH2010-1), or a Phase Number (BH02-1), or just a starting number (BH20001).

The client may also require you to embed some properties of the location into the ID, for example zone of the site, contract number etc. This should be avoided in my opinion as this data can be recorded as a property of the location and does not need to be embedded in the ID. Embedding properties that may change into your location IDs will set you up for a costly data clean up exercise later in the job.

Assuming the client has left you to assign the location IDs the next question is “What location naming convention should you adopt for the project?”. Most projects will opt for the standard BH1, BH2, BH3, TP1, TP2, TP3 approach and think nothing of it. That is until they get to the tenth borehole and find that the list now orders incorrectly when typed into Excel or some borehole logging programs (e.g. BH1, BH10, BH2, BH3). If you ever find yourself in this position remember the following rule.

DO NOT CHANGE THE LOCATION ID AFTER IT HAS BEEN PHYSICALLY CREATED

Why is this rule important – it’s just an ID isn’t it?

Think data! When the driller or engineer physically took a sample or drilling record from that location they referenced the ID (BH1), this was written on their log sheets, on the sample labels, and (if used) into their mobile logging device. New physical and electronic data has been created and assigned to the ID (BH1). When a sample taken at this location is referenced in the future it will be referred to by what was recorded on the label (BH1).

So now you decide to call the location BH001 so that it orders well in Excel. But, a result of that is you now need to track down all the drillers records, sample labels, schedule sheets, chain of custody and logs to correct the location number and change the location ID. All of a sudden the ordering in Excel will start to be a small problem in comparison with the problem you generate by changing the ID after it has been physically created.

So what location naming convention should you use? To be honest it doesn’t matter as long as all contractual parties agree the conventions and agree to pay additional costs should they decide to change them after site work has started.

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