Survey 101 For The Design Office

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This question is for the old survey junkies out there. I am a civil designer in Australia and for the record my survey skill are limited so please excuse my terminology and knowledge.

As a designer I rely on the terrain model provided highly but lately I have found that the survey being provided by young surveyors from various companies is getting worse and worse.

Simple thing like when surveying a road crown they are not making it a break line and the road triangulation is shows that it has no crown. Power poles no picked up and simply picking up levels incorrectly. The survey firms that the consultancy I work for use are regarded to be some of the best in the country but yet I am finding it is getting harder and harder to get survey that I can honestly rely on.

Have the more experienced surveyors out there in the world found the younger graduates take a lot of shots yet seem to really pick up very little information? Or is it just a localised thing that I will have to live with.

I hate as a designer to have to sit down with surveyors and pick what is wrong with there work. Once upon a time I had no need to ever visit a site because the survey was so effective knew almost every blade of grass to the site. Now I have to go out just to make sure what they have located is really as shown and see what they have missed.

Will the survey Gods smile upon me again one day and help me with this madness?


I agree that some of the “standard of care” has fallen in surveying, if fact to some extent in the entire design profession. During my college years, my surveying instructors impressed upon us the need for checking and rechecking - field work, calculations, drawings and most importantly a field check with the completed survey.

I think there are a number of problems:

  1. Today’s demand for absolute lowest cost, push the work out the door and get on to the next one.

  2. Field work is thought of as a commodity to be performed by technicians, not professionals. The field work may be reviewed by a professional at the office, but he may never have been out in the field to check the survey info. or the crew.

  3. The almost total reliance on computers and total stations without carefully checking input and output.

What are possible solutions?

  1. More in-house training of field crews, not just for the technical aspects of surveying, but in the basic information requirements to be met for various surveys.

  2. Development of survey quality control checklists.

  3. Field checking of every survey before it is pushed out the door.

Yes, this all costs time and money, but that cost must be weighed against the cost of litigation. I also think, in the long run quality work is the best advertisement.|

I’ve encountered that problem as well as too much data. With new LiDAR surveying it’s possible to have too much data. It’s great to have a 75MB point data file.


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On a different scale, I own an agricultural property, and I started using a copy of my real property report to plan new buildings.

Once I started however, I quickly discovered that th location and orientation of the house are wrong, and it had a temporary structure on it that had since moved.

These guys were asleep at the wheel.

@SparWeb LiDAR is current… Dik