Land Surveyor: Today and the Future

The profession of a land surveyor has constantly evolved. Basic principles of trigonometry are still at the foundation of land measurements, but the roles of a land surveyor, the tools that are employed and the governance surrounding land divisions have been a continuous story of change. Today’s successful land surveyor has found a way to survive the changes to his business that have come with the automation of machines. He’s not building muscles by pounding hundreds of stakes in the ground, but instead marking property lines and locating various infrastructures. Three-dimensional digital drawings are driving the machines that used to rely on operators being guided by wooden stakes that were placed there by a land surveyor. This recent evolution within land surveying requires the surveyor to embrace the changes that have come with our digital world.

Land Surveyor 2.0 must possess skills beyond land definition, planning and measurements. Weaving data from various sources into a cloud based resource is the new trend.

land surveyorThe idea of Surveyor 2.0 is not mine. I heard it at a recent conference where the concept was presented by Mr. CheeHai Teo, the director of FIG (Fédération Intenationale des Géomètres). FIG is the oldest continuously operating organization devoted to the affairs of land surveyors worldwide. His ideas caught my curiosity and I could easily relate his comments to the current state of affairs with surveyors I know myself. Mr. Teo stated that Land Surveyor 2.0 must Measure, Model and Manage.
What does this mean today on the modern construction site? For a land surveyor, it’s not about staking points and alignments anymore. The machines can cut the lines and trim the elevations to match the digital models without a lot of wood in the ground. It has become more about establishing control and setting property lines. According to Tim Smith of Professional Land Surveying Inc. in Southern California, the modern land surveyor has lost an intimacy with the land on many construction projects. He may see a project in the very early stages and then not again until it’s almost completely built. Now his decisions must be based on data and not experience. The data are not just his measurements, field notes and property descriptions; data cannot always be analyzed with maps and spreadsheets alone. Visualization of the data while applying a variety of filters is one method of bringing the data to life. This allows the data to be manipulated in new and useful ways.

land surveyorThe sources and the tools for analyzing data have been evolving alongside Land Surveyor 2.0. A familiar example of this is Google Earth. Virtually any place on the planet can be viewed from an aerial perspective and many places are even accompanied with ground based photographs that can be sewn together. Several surveyors I know today are using Google Earth to get an idea about the terrain surrounding their project site before they visit it in person. But Google Earth is not limited to imagery. There are various overlays that can be applied. Street names, public transportation corridors, bodies of waters, civil boundaries and other layers can be viewed on top of the satellite images.

For Land Surveyor 2.0, these additional data layers include all of the data and meta-data from his previous surveys, active and passive monument information surrounding his project areas, inventory of available tools, licensing requirements, employees availability, customer schedules, finances, change orders, etc. As you can see, some of these layers are related to geography while others are related to resources or administration. Land Surveyor 2.0 must manage and integrate these layers into an efficient machine that allows him to access all of the data he needs to make informed choices in real-time. What does this look like and how does a company get there? The road is not easy, but it’s not impossible either. Many surveying firms have found that the Esri suite of software products can help them achieve these goals.

In a perfect world, Land Surveyor 2.0 has all of his historical work digitized and organized. He is able to locate the field notes for any particular survey within seconds or minutes without the necessity of digging though old log books and paper maps. He can filter his search to look by date, location, customer name, type of survey, etc. He can graphically display his projects on a live interactive map. The projects can be displayed through various filters so that trends over time or topic can be revealed. For instance, Land Surveyor 2.0 is able to state what percentage of his business is devoted to construction surveys. He can dig down and identify key customers and regions within these construction surveys. The financial aspect of the construction surveys is another layer so that determinations based on profitability can be intelligently made. Land Surveyor 2.0 does not waste a lot of time reconnoitering job sites because he can easily and quickly recover all of his field notes and control points from previous surveys surrounding the current area of interest. He accesses public data from the cloud for proximal surveys done by others and integrates all of this information into a virtual project.


Digital drawings are shared on the web so that change orders and other adjustments can be updated constantly. land Surveyor 2.0 is now charged with providing analysis and advice to his customers based on this live and ever changing world. While historical experience is advantageous in the decision making process, land Surveyor 2.0 must have access and be able to analyze many sources of data and then weave them into a digital realization so that the machines can go out and move dirt into the right places.

Land Surveyor 2.0 is a GIS professional….. This statement will probably cause angst among many licensed land surveyors. It shouldn’t. The task of maintaining and controlling these survey layers is very similar to what many GIS managers do with other data layers is very similar to what many GIS managers do with other data layers. Land Surveyor 2.0 is licensed to ensure the highest levels of precision and accuracy within the survey layers of data. Land Surveyor 2.0 has become a specialized GIS analyst that is authorized by his government to make decisions about land divisions and boundaries. The GIS and Surveying industries have been trying to “Bridge the Gap” for many years and land Surveyor 2.0 is closer to this bridge than ever before. Surveying firms that have adopted this model are doing so because this is what it takes to stay in business in their markets. They need the competitive edge that accompanies access to data. Their GIS, their way of managing their business is helping them make more money.

credits to: Mr. Joe Sass of Machine Control Online

Why You SHOULD Have a Land Survey Completed Before Purchasing Land?

Buying land, whether commercial or residential, is always a pricy endeavor, even though prices have eased somewhat lately. Which is why searching for a lot that you want and making a proposal for it without conducting a land survey within the area is possibly the biggest mistake that anyone can make.

 Here’s why it’s really important that you have land surveying done first:

Land surveyors can analyze if you’re actually getting what you’re going to pay for. This means determine whether the sidewalks, trees, driveways and even the bird bath is part of the property you’re about to buy. Land surveying would also see whether the neighbors are encroaching into the property, which could then mean you’re likely to have problems later on with your neighbors. Working with a land surveyor doesn’t only mean they determine what you’re getting or perhaps not getting – land surveyors are the experts, and they can help with building regulations, wetland regulations, etc. Be aware that these regulations can change anytime, but land surveyors should be updated on these regulations, or they will refer you to an individual who is.

 Let’s say the present landowner (the one selling the land) can present you with old land survey documents? You should still hire your land surveyor to determine whether the boundary monuments continue to be in place. Also, land surveying done a number of years back would possibly not show recent changes to the land. If the existing survey is older than about a decade, you need to get a new survey. Technology and surveying standards are greater now and may give you more confidence in the survey work.

Second, that survey was completed for that owner. He may have instructed the surveyor not to show some things on the drawing. At least have a land surveyor get out there and evaluate the parcel with this survey in hand. We have seen numerous cases when a whole new land survey would save the customer thousands so don’t become a victim.

I’ve heard many individuals say hiring a land surveyor is nothing but unnecessary expense. I’ll let you know what’s unnecessary: the worries caused by paying 1000s of dollars for something and ending up not receiving what you were expecting. If you’re smart, you’d hire a professional land surveyor prior to making any land purchases.




How Important is Land Surveying in Today’s World?

land surveying

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Most of you have probably never thought about land surveying until you needed it at some point. Many of us hear about land surveying all the time but never really give it much thought. Since an investment in land and/or a home will likely be the largest investment you will ever make in your lifetime, knowing where your property lines are becomes very important indeed.

The art of land surveying was developed centuries ago. In fact, it’s one of the oldest professions in the world. The fact that it was used by man at such an early time and is still being used now shows how important surveying is to our survival.

Surveying land has many uses. Boundary surveying, for instance, allows you to know where your property corners or property lines are. This is especially helpful when disputes with a neighbour or with other people arise in terms of where your property ends.

If your family wants to divide a tract of land and transfer ownership to other family members, a boundary survey is the first step to do so. If you’re having a building constructed, it is very important that you have the land surveyed to make sure that you are not encroaching onto other peoples’ property. A mistaken building location is very expensive to fix so you might as well invest in a boundary survey to prevent this.

A topographic survey, or topo survey for short, is another important type of land surveying. A topo survey is done to locate natural and man-made features on a particular parcel of land. A topographic survey is different in that the elevation of the land is surveyed which means it can show man-made underground features, retaining walls, utility lines and etc.

Before you start any kind of construction activity, it’s important to have a topo survey done in the area so they’ll have an accurate record of the land’s existing conditions. Yes, that spot with the new mall in the neighbourhood had to have a topo survey done first.

Now, a flood survey or flood determination – this is very important too. It isn’t evident just looking at a property whether you are at risk of flooding or not. And, in some cases, even looking at the flood maps doesn’t give you an accurate answer. The flood survey determines the elevation of the home and compares that to the base flood elevation. This is the only way to be sure you’re not in a flood hazard zone. If you’ve just been told that you live in a flood-prone area, having that confirmed by a professional land surveyor would let you know how to best proceed.

When getting flood insurance, insurance companies would require an elevation certificate from you. A land surveyor would be able to assist you with this.

If a company wants to invest in another state, or if there is a national lender on a commercial project, they will likely need an ALTA Land Title Survey done before anything is constructed. An ALTA Land Title Survey is a lot like a regular boundary survey except that nationally accepted ALTA Standards are used to guide the surveying effort.

Land surveying standards vary widely from state to state and an ALTA Land Title Survey is used to cut down on this variation. Also, an ALTA Land Title Survey typically is more involved than the state standards variety. Because of this, an ALTA survey can be more anywhere from 50% to 200% more expensive than using the state standards only. If you need this type of survey, I suggest seeking an experienced land surveying company who is familiar with these additional requirements.

In summary, there are many uses for a land survey and for seeking the services of a land surveyor. If you’re unsure of your situation, consult Daphne Land Surveying at (251) 270-4140  today or go to the Contact page and send us an email.


Land Surveying: Estimating the Cost

land surveying

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Land surveying, simply speaking, is the science and art of establishing or re-establishing property corners, property lines and/or boundaries.

There may be different reasons why someone wants a chunk of property surveyed. Essentially the most common is to determine whether a piece of land is vulnerable to flooding, to subdivide real estate to sell or deed to members of the family or know if there are any encroachments. This might happen when a neighbour disputes that you are using a piece of his lot or vice versa (for more about this, go here).If you have to have a piece of land surveyed, first thing will come to mind is “how much does it cost?”

There are numerous factors determining just how much land surveying on your land would cost. The fact that this sort of service needs to be done by an expert contributes a lot to the total cost of the service, but choosing a non-professional to survey your land is dangerous, and probably illegal for the non-professional. That is why you need to take a good look around before settling with a surveying company. If you must work inside a particular budget, discuss this with the surveyor up-front. Very often he may manage to offer cost saving steps to get the work you need done within these cost limits.

The form of the land also needs to looked into. A square or even a rectangle piece of land is easier to survey than an odd shaped parcel, or one with lots of sides. With the latter, the surveyor will have to take more time in surveying the curves as well as the bends meaning the cost of the service would increase. The overall measurements the land is also an important factor here.

Understand that the cost of land surveying is normally proportionate to the time and effort that a land surveyor would spend on the project. If the land that you’re having surveyed is not accessible, or has thick vegetation, then the total price of the survey could go higher. This is true of the weather conditions which could affect the work. Surveying in warm weather is sort of slower to keep from putting the crew members in danger. Also, most surveying cannot be done in the rain.

When requesting for a quote, keep in mind that surveyors base the estimate on expected conditions at the site. These conditions could change, resulting in additional costs. Always inquire about these potential additional cost scenarios.

All that being said, competitive prices are also to be expected, this is why we recommend choosing a surveyor based on his experience and reputation rather than on the price he writes on a piece of paper. Usually it is far better to invest a good amount of money on a survey that’s well-done rather than pick a company with a very “affordable” price but have the survey repeated because the results were wrong.To conclude, always discuss the costs of the survey before you decide to ask the surveyor to start his work. You should also obtain a contract that lets you know what is expected of the land surveyor. This is one of the most important steps in having your land surveyed.