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Before any construction project starts, there is a thorough planning stage to ensure everything runs smoothly. Part of this planning stage is a construction survey, which establishes the correct boundaries and layout of a project. Without a proper survey, there are a host of issues that can arise down the road.
What Is a Construction Survey?
Simply put, construction or building surveying is the process of staking out reference points to guide the construction of new structures. Typically, these reference points are determined using a coordinate system designed or selected for that particular project.
Though most commonly done before a job starts, a survey can be utilized during a project and even after completion. Pre-construction surveys are meant to set the markers to be referenced over the course of the job and usually physically mark the ground to indicate where structures are to be built. Surveys done during construction are used to figure out where other features must go or to ensure the accuracy of the project. Post-construction surveys are primarily to check final results and compare the finished job to the plans.
All construction surveys analyze the plot of land for its constructability but also include an analysis on its topography. If nothing else, a construction survey should always be completed before any project starts.
The Survey Process
The survey process begins with a topographic survey of the construction site. Depending on the scale of the project (typically larger ones), the surveyor uses photogrammetric methods to develop what is known as a base map. The topographic survey and base map provide a base plan for the project that the workers can draw on.
From here, any earth that needs to be added, moved, or removed is calculated. Once this is done, the surveyor lays out the elevation and slope of the base, top coat materials, and various subgrades. Adequately curved and straight sections provide smooth alignment and transitions. The surveyor also maps out where staking should be done to provide the most accurate and proper placing for each structure. This is incredibly important, as when a site is not properly staked, the project will not be completed to specification. Always have a licensed surveyor complete your construction survey.
Surveying is a crucial aspect of every construction process, no matter the size. A project without a survey is a project doomed to inconsistencies, mistakes, and missed deadlines.
Construction Surveyors vs. Land Surveyors
People often think that construction surveyors and land surveyors are essentially (if not entirely) the same thing. However, there are quite a few differences between the two positions.
A construction surveyor is responsible for inspecting and measuring portions of land that are being considered for a variety of construction projects. The type of project determines the details of a surveyor's job, with different sizes and types of construction jobs requiring different experience and knowledge. However, most surveying jobs draw from the same basic set of skills. In addition to collecting information about the plot of land (boundaries, curves, elevation, size, etc.), construction surveyors map out the land and compile reports about how the space should be used and why. This information is then passed to engineers, landowners, and others so that they may determine the best and safest uses for the land.
A land surveyor, on the other hand, is a licensed professional who directs survey teams and is considered legally responsible for the resulting survey results. Most land in the U.S. is surveyed in some way by licensed land surveyors and their teams. Land surveyors usually write up the legal descriptions of land for deeds, leases, and other property documents. It is not uncommon for them to perform court exhibit surveys to aid in settling boundary and land disputes, subdivision issues, and traffic accident investigations.
How Much Does a Survey Cost?
The exact price of a construction survey is difficult to provide, as costs vary from project to project. Typically, a construction survey is priced based on how long the surveyor thinks it will take to complete the survey. This varies according to the size of the potential construction area, type of construction, and more.
- The average cost of a construction survey is between $175 and $250 per hour
Note that these are just the average costs; the more services that are required, the higher the price generally is. In addition, hourly rates vary according to your location.