Land scarcity, population growth, environmental changes and sustainability are some of the common challenges in land surveying. For instance, rising sea levels can further complicate surveying and planning in coastal areas. Population growth and increasing population density in urban areas also present a challenge.

In other words, just accomplishing the job and meeting the clients’ requirements won’t suffice in surveying. Many land surveyors now understand the huge role they play in affecting the society and environment. That’s why they also pay attention to what happens in the long term and how the resulting infrastructure will influence the development and evolution of a society or community.

How land surveyors prioritise sustainability

The key to sustainable development is meeting the present requirements while not endangering the future generations. It’s about “sustaining” the present while still being responsible about the future.

One way land surveyors can accomplish this is by minimising the use of present resources. For example, better accuracy in volume surveys may help minimise the costs in importing and exporting material. As a result, there will be fewer resources to be consumed and wasted in the process.

This could be crucial especially in surveying coastal areas. High additional earth volumes might be imported so the resulting establishment won’t be much affected by rising sea levels. Surveyors also consider the possible pathways and flows of storm water. This is to mitigate the risk of flooding while still minimising the use of imported earth material.

Different land elevations, ground contours and other features on the surface of the earth could also be sources of opportunities for better sustainability and lower costs. The earth volumes could be accurately calculated and further reduced. Accurate base mapping can also lead to better planning or taking advantage of the existing land features.

The resulting change in topography and flow of storm water once the structure is completed may also affect the surrounding forests and ecosystems. These areas might get flooded as a result or the pollution during the construction and operation of the establishment could affect both the animal and plant life in the area. Responsible surveyors also consider these things when performing their tasks.

Sustainability & balancing the constraints

Considering the environment and prioritising sustainability add another level of complexity in all aspects of construction. New constraints will be introduced while working on deadlines and budget.

Continuous development and evolution of the environment and job site are also important considerations. As mentioned earlier, sea levels may rise every year due to climate change. Also, the boundaries may also change as a result of accretion and erosion (natural occurrences). It’s important to account for these in all types of infrastructure projects (e.g. residential & commercial construction, roads, tunnels, railways).

The change in boundaries could be a result of the natural activities of tidal waters, lakes and streams. These changes may be gradual or imperceptible even through the months and years. However, these could still have some effects on the boundaries.

These could be new challenges to many property developers and construction firms. There will be additional requirements, measurements and calculations. Moreover, new regulations are being finalised to further account for future environmental changes. In response, surveyors undergo continuing professional development to know about the latest standards. They also invest in new tools and technologies to further improve their calculations and assessments.

Modern practice of surveying

The days of solely relying on 2-dimensional drawings are almost gone. Back then when we think of surveys we imagine drawings on paper with some incomprehensible lines.

Now, survey reports may also include accurate 3D representations of the job site. This makes visualisation and collaboration much easier. After all, humans are more used to 3D environments (the real world). The 3D models of the site will also contribute in spotting possible errors and opportunities in the site. We can get a better and more comprehensive overview of the inherent features of the land (including nearby man-made structures, ground contours and bodies of water).

Although in-person site visit is still the best way to evaluating the land, 3D models allow repeated evaluations of the site and additional reviews from the other project staff. This results to more rigorous examinations of the job site without the need for repeated and frequent visits.

This is especially valuable in remote or areas that are difficult to access. This is also useful in existing buildings (especially heritage or vulnerable sites). The 3D model can provide a representation that shows even the corners and hard to reach areas.

It works by using a scanner that measure up to billions of points. The output is what we call a “point cloud” which creates an “illusion” of a surface. This is easily interpreted by the human eyes.

The laser scan data carries full information, which is useful when performing advanced analysis and visualisation. Aside from surveying existing structures, this can be very valuable in architectural and town planning.

There are other technologies and tools that contribute to better accuracy in surveying. For instance, surveyors may use state-of-the-art robotic Total Stations and Global Navigation Satellite Systems when assessing the job site. Aside from accuracy, this could also be a more cost-effective method for producing timely evaluations and reports.

Truly, the modern practice demands modern solutions. This is because of the requirement for better accuracy (where errors have strict limits). Even a deviation of a few millimetres can significantly cause rework, errors and even legal ramifications.

Paradox of modern technologies in surveying

With the development of new and possibly automated tools, some people infer that there will be fewer land surveyors required for the industry. After all, automation and robots will eventually replace workers.

Interestingly, the more likely result is that technology will just better complement human capabilities. In addition, technology will just bring better efficiency, speed and accuracy. But when it comes to decision making, human experts will still do the job.

For example, robotic total stations (modern tools for measuring and mapping) still require a remote control. The surveyor will operate the instrument and use the integrated video technology for in-office surveys and photogrammetry (a way of measuring distances between objects with the use of photography).

GPS surveying is also now being widely applied in the industry. The use of Satellites and Global Positioning Systems allow for better accuracy and reduced costs in acquiring longitude, latitude and height information. This also leads to faster results and the need for fewer people (could be one person only instead of a full surveying crew).

This seems that the technology is replacing people. However, there are other important aspects of surveying that professionals can focus on instead. They can perform additional verifications of the measurements and calculations. They can also do flood risk assessments and review the building codes to ensure compliance (e.g. level height surveys).

The time can also be better spent on communicating with the team and other stakeholders. This is to clearly set expectations and contribute further in the planning phase of the project. This is also to make sure that everyone’s on the same page especially when it comes to the boundaries and constraints.

Challenges and advances in land surveying

There will always be new challenges in surveying as a result of the increasing complexity and requirements of a job site and project. Some of those challenges are also a result of a larger commitment to accuracy and sustainability.

In response to those challenges, surveyors now use modern instruments to achieve better accuracy and speed in measurements and calculations. Combined with human expertise, the use of modern technology can drastically improve productivity. This results to having more time to other important aspects of the surveying project.

Here at Geosurv, we are committed to achieving a high accuracy in all our surveying work. We rigorously study our client’s requirements and present constraints. Our team also continuously undergo continuing professional development for the latest knowledge in Australia building codes, new environmental regulations, modern tools, Occupational Health & Safety laws and updated standards.

Contact us today and our experienced team will handle the project. We have Registered Surveyors and Survey Technicians who communicate directly with clients. Through the years, we’ve already handled numerous projects in Sydney, Canberra and nearby locations.