Roles and Responsibilities of a Surveyor in Construction

December 11, 2017


Everyone's heard of a surveyor, but does that mean everyone knows the role of this skilled individual? On asking someone, an acutely self-conscious observer gestures vaguely while mumbling something about land development. He's almost right. In construction projects, surveyors examine land. They record precise measurements, identify site boundaries, and generally translate mapped construction plans into a series of spatially accurate surface coordinates. They also talk a lot about reference points.

Building a Site Interface

There's a plan on a drafting board for a new construction project. That's good news, except we lack the ability to translate this architectural drawing into a real word asset. Not to worry, this is why professional surveyors exist. Loaded with maps and land survey documents, the expert land measurer accepts his role. Key among them, the engineering master constructs a kind of virtual bridge. He measures the site of the construction area with electronic distance measuring gear (EDMs), then adds angular data to the measured outlines. Tied to the ground's topographical characteristics, the layout of that site becomes a spatially assignable set of coordinate points. As for the reference points, these are existing land points, like a steeple or an ancient fixed site, as already marked on a past land survey.

Working with On-Site Survey Agents

Imagine the mathematics that enters this work domain. Latitude and longitude measurements contend with cartesian coordinate systems while old land survey records are pulled out of an archive. At heart, though, the surveying team travels a great deal. They walk the land, mark out drainage channels and they cable trace power lines. Mounted on an impressive tripod, the head engineer communicates with his apprentice. That younger trainee aids the surveyor as he squints through the lens of his distance and angle measuring gear. In the end, the professionally designed structure is oriented and scaled so that it matches those reference points and spatial coordinates. From here, the ground is levelled, graded, and all infrastructural elements are laid.

Trenching services also rely on this competently wielded skillset. Beyond the structural assets, the lines of the routed trenches thread their way through the land by taking the most practical pathways. Through topological features and contoured surfaces, the surveyed route avoids any contested land or out of boundary approaches. Finally, from a bureaucratic viewpoint, surveying agencies are often tasked with another responsibility, that of gaining a required land permit. From council approval communiques to on-site boundary measurements and trench routing duties, the roles and responsibilities of a professional surveyor in construction are many.

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