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What a Land Surveyor Does and Why It Is Important

Land Surveyor

You might have seen a land surveyor or a land surveying crew along a road or on a property at some point while driving around somewhere. However, maybe all you know is that these people are called surveyors without really knowing what they do for a living. What they actually do is complex and very important to the land development process.

A land surveyor is a person whose main responsibility is to physically locate the existing characteristics and features of a piece of land and transfer that information into the form of a two-dimensional plan. This information obtained by a surveyor can be the information required for a topographic map such as contours, trees, bodies of water, waterways, buildings, roads, driveways, and walls.

A surveyor will use various equipment and instruments to gather the data from a site and convert that data into a plan that can be used by others as a reference or to design a land development plan.

The Types of Surveys Developed by Land Surveyors

There are generally three types of surveys that land surveyors can create.

1) Existing Conditions Survey – This kind of survey involves the preparation of an “Existing Conditions” plan that would show what a surveyed site looks like on paper.

2) During-Construction Survey – Also referred to as a “survey stake-out plan”, a during-construction survey plan is the result of a survey that a land surveyor would be asked to prepare that shows where certain elements of a proposed construction would go so that a project can be built properly. The elements could include the layout of buildings, the location of paved areas, the placement of storm sewer structures, and the limits of proposed grading.

3) As-Built Survey – This is a survey that would be prepared after a project has been constructed for someone to check the survey against a design plan to see that everything has been built according to the original plan.


The Other Tasks That Land Surveyors May Also Do

Other than actual surveying, land surveyors are often responsible for other tasks as well. They might have to do deed research for a property and the adjoining properties to determine boundary information that would be a part of an existing conditions plan. They might also have to compare and reconcile discrepancies found between what is in the researched deeds and what boundary evidence is found in the field. This boundary evidence could be existing monuments and survey pins that were placed in the past to delineate property boundaries.

Land surveyors could also have to place new monuments and survey pins especially in the case of a new land subdivision that involves new lots that have to be delineated.

Another task of land surveyors is the preparation of legal descriptions for proposed lots of a new land subdivision.

Field Work Versus Desk Work

Even though much of the work of a surveyor involves being outside at a project site doing the actual surveying of the land, a lot of the work of a land surveyor also involves being back at the office doing tasks at a desk.

The field work is the work outside that involves walking around a site, taking measurements, and gathering various data for existing conditions plans. It also involves the installation of new monuments and survey pins for new subdivision projects. It could also involve the obtaining of survey for as-built plans.

The desk work, on the other hand, involves taking field-surveyed data, transferring it to a computer-aided drafting program, and then using that data to draw an existing conditions plan or an as-built plan. Desk work would also involve the preparation of legal descriptions.

An Example of a Typical Day of a Land Surveyor

As you can see from the above examples of what a land surveyor does, a typical day for a land surveyor could involve one of many different tasks or a combination of tasks. A surveyor could spend all of one working day preparing for a day out in the field for an actual survey to take place the next day or this surveyor could spend a full day drafting an existing conditions plan for a survey that had already been done.

A work day could also entail field work in the morning with desk work in the afternoon. Work could be all for the same project or it could be for a couple of different projects depending on the schedule for that particular day or for the week.

Why the Work of a Land Surveyor Is Important in Land Development

The work of a land surveyor is important because it ensures that a land development project is designed and constructed properly. It is the results of surveying work upon which civil engineers, land planners, municipalities, and contractors rely to evaluate existing land and how to tie a proposed land development design into existing conditions.

Land surveyors could also be responsible for preparing as-built plans to be sure that an approved plan is constructed in conformance to a designed plan which ensures that the construction is in compliance with local requirements.

In placing proposed monuments and survey pins, surveyors ensure that new boundaries can be easily located by a property owner after a piece of land has been subdivided.


The Kind of Company a Land Surveyor Might Work For

A land surveyor typically works for a company that provides many different services related to land development.

This kind of company would include people such as civil engineers and land planners. This kind of working environment facilitates the conversion of survey data obtained by the land surveyors into working plans that can then be used by the rest of the technical staff.

When to Hire a Land Surveyor

Even though an individual property owner could hire a land surveyor to do a survey to create an existing conditions plan, it is probably more common that the services of a surveyor are automatically used in the preparation of a new subdivision or land development project.

If survey work is required, you should see this as an item in your project proposal and realize that survey work related to your project is a very important part of the overall design of your project.

Related: 6 Times When It Might Be a Good Idea to Hire a Land Surveyor

Related: The Land Surveying Process (In 8 Steps)

Related: Recommendations for Land Surveying Books

Posted in Surveying

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