Did You Know: Surveying Basics

Posted by on Feb 17, 2015

surveyingOne of the best ways weve heard to describe surveyors is to say that surveyors are the eyes and ears for the property owners. Many property owners, public or private, aren’t always familiar with the land they are trying to develop or improve. By doing a survey, we are able to show and note on a survey any easement, zoning restrictions or improvements that affect the property either in a negative or positive manner. Our ultimate goal is to provide a true depiction of existing improvements and restrictions, situated on and adjacent to the property, aiding in the engineering and design of future improvements.

When you see surveyors wearing orange vests on the side of the road, we are locating topographic features, property lines, roadways, fences, water meters, water lines, utility poles, storm drainage, etc. While many people often think we’re using a camera to take pictures, the instrument you see attached to a yellow tripod is actually called a transit, or total station. The total station measures angles and distances relevant to two known points to enable data collection and calculations during the survey. The red and white pole, you typically see one of the survey crew members holding, is actually called a prism pole. Mounted atop the pole is a prism, which reflects a laser back to the total station where the total station calculates and records the distance between the total station and prism pole.

There are three main types of surveys we may be doing:

1. Boundary Survey – This type of survey establishes boundary lines of a new parcel of land or reestablishes boundary lines of an existing parcel of land.
2. ALTA/ACSM Survey – These must adhere to a set of national standards set by the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) that were adopted by the American Land Title Association (ALTA). The standards for these surveys require a more detailed report than the typical boundary survey, including 21 items, such as details about easements benefitting or encumbering a property, access to public roads, zoning setbacks, flood zones, water boundaries, building height and more. We also work with the various Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to make sure that the existing grade for wheelchair access meets (ADA) requirements.
3. Topographic Survey – This type of survey identifies and maps the contours of the ground and existing features on the surface of the earth or slightly above or below the earth’s surface. This can include trees, buildings, streets, walkways, manholes, utility poles, retaining walls, etc.

All of these types of surveys come into play with our site engineering and traffic/transportation projects. Often, the survey is one of the first steps in development and it all starts with the guys in orange vests on the side of the road.

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