Land surveyors and land surveying services are incredibly important parts of our lives, even if we don’t think about them very often. The process of determining information about distances, boundaries, angles, elevations, and other references about physical points on the surface of the Earth has been profession dating back thousands of years. Many famous US presidents were land surveyors at one point in their careers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln! Land surveyors have been operating in one form or another since several thousand years B.C. While the techniques and equipment that land surveyors and land surveying services use in modern times have certainly evolved over the centuries, the underlying principles of land surveying remain largely the same.
The goal is to create maps, blueprints, surveys, reports, and other data, often for mapping of property, ownership, determining locations for building footings, property sales, planning for building projects, roadway, utilities, and right of way concerns, and many other purposes. You can often see land surveyors and land surveying services at work along the side of the road in areas where construction projects are in progress or will soon be commencing. But this is often most people’s only encounter with land surveyors until they need one. So, let’s explore land surveyors, land surveying, and land surveying services in a bit more detail. Below, we’ll look at the differences between commercial, governmental, and (our focus) consumer needs for surveyors. We highlight what they do in their profession, discuss some of the equipment, skills, and different disciplines and fields they draw on in their work, and offer some advice to consumers on how to find the right land surveyor or land surveying service for their needs.
There are various types of land surveyors, land surveying services, and land surveying needs that vary based on the customer or purpose for which they hired. Those may group into commercial, governmental, and consumer land surveying. Many firms may participate in all these surveying sectors, while smaller or more specialized surveying firms may only operate in one of them. From the standpoint of consumer land surveyors and land surveying services, which will make up most of this article, it typically doesn’t matter if a surveying company does commercial or governmental surveying as well. However, it can be a positive, as extensive experience in multiple market sectors can help to ensure that a land surveyor or land surveying service has the equipment, skills, and depth of knowledge needed to do a good job.
Commercial land surveyors are like those that the average consumer may need. They generally work on larger projects, however. That may include home building developments, shopping malls, large office buildings, and similar. Typically, these land surveyors and land surveying services may have additional equipment, or larger-scale equipment, to accommodate the needs of the scale of the work they will be doing. However, most of the surveying equipment, processes, and other aspects of surveying are mostly the same, whether it’s a small one-bedroom home planned or a large shopping mall.
Governmental and government-related land surveyors can be a bit different. The scale of the projects involved, and what their common aims are, vary quite a bit from the average home or building construction tasks of residential or commercial land surveying services. In the big arena, land surveyors and land surveying services often must work on things such as road or highway projects, rail projects, bridges, tunnels, dams, and other large-scale works. Again, this may require specialized equipment, training, and certification. However, the underlying principles of surveying and the techniques and disciplines involved remain largely the same.
So, what exactly do land surveyors and land surveying services do? Again, for our purposes, we’re mostly looking at what they do in the context of consumer services, so government and commercial surveying projects aren’t something we’re going to detail any further here. However, all the different types of land surveying projects that go on can generally fall into one of the several categories of work that land surveyors and land surveying services complete. According to the International Federation of Land Surveyors, the role of a land surveyor is:
Taken into more concrete terms, land surveyors use various equipment to map and record heights, distances, and angles and translate that information into maps, plots, reports, plans, and other data. Land surveyors and land surveying services use modern devices to ensure land is level, define boundaries for ownership, measure angles, grades, and slopes, determine position (typically with GPS devices), develop reference networks, and provide other observational measurements related to numerous land-altering industries (construction, mining, topography, flood plains, and similar).
Consumers most often require land surveyors and land surveying services if they are going to be making alterations to their property, subdividing or selling the property, have a boundary dispute with the government or a neighbor, are planning construction activities on the property, and similar tasks. These types of land surveys are often quite straightforward and relatively easy for a trained professional land surveyor or land surveying service, with results providing a high degree of detail and accuracy.
Land surveyors and land surveying services need to use a variety of equipment and draw on many different skills and disciplines in their surveying work. Of course, an excellent geospatial sense is essential, as is an understanding of mapping, mathematics, geometry, physics, engineering, metrology, and even the law. In modern times, they also need to understand programming and IT to some extent, as much of the work of land surveyors and land surveying services has to be translated from paper or digital observations into geographical information systems (GIS) to be put to use, filed with governments, and so on.
Some of the most common equipment that land surveyors and land surveying services use are often found on tripod bases and may be manually operated or remote-controlled. Many modern systems are known as “total stations,” in that they include all the primary types of measurement equipment a land surveyor will use. It consists of a theodolite for measuring angles, along with electric distance measuring equipment. GPS devices, laser range-finding equipment, 3D scanners, levels, and other surveying equipment are also often used, if not part of a total surveying station or integrated unit, then as individual devices.
When you know a bit more about what land surveyors and land surveying services do, you might be wondering how to find the right surveyor for your needs. If you are a consumer and looking for one of the land surveyors or land surveying services that provide consumer surveying services, it’s likely you haven’t encountered or hired one in the past. It’s not something you deal with every single day; therefore, we’ve provided some essential criteria that you should consider when you are looking for a local land surveyor for your project needs. By analyzing these criteria with regards to a land surveyor or land surveying service, you can evaluate them objectively and find one that will deliver the quality of results that you require, at a price you can afford.