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Role of Surveyors on Apartment Construction

by nicola on October 16, 2018 in Blog

Fundamentally, surveyors are among the first people in the site during construction projects. That’s because the information and reports they provide are crucial to proper and accurate planning of the structure to be built.

Aside from accurately determining the land boundaries (wherein surveyors are commonly known for), surveyors also play a vital role in making the most of the unique landscape the site has to offer. The measurements and information provided by the surveyors can then be used by architects so they can create the optimal design for the commercial, government, industrial or residential infrastructure.

Role of surveyors on apartment construction

It’s especially the case with residential construction (e.g. building apartment complexes). This kind of structure should achieve architectural superiority in several aspects. It’s not just about the design of the structure itself, it’s also about how the structure relates to its immediate environment.

We mentioned earlier something about making the most of the unique landscape the site has to offer. Each site has unique opportunities for architects and engineers to take advantage of. For example, the Nishi Apartments in Acton, ACT somehow takes advantage of the lake Burley Griffin. Nearby bodies of water often increases the perceived value of a building. It’s especially the case with apartments because tenants often value the natural views their units can present. This is a clear example of the importance of the structure’s relation to its immediate environment (not just the design of the structure itself).

As you’ve noticed already, construction projects now require whole-picture thinking. Each construction project is not in isolation. Often, engineers and architects need to consider the surroundings and whether the structure will stand out or blend with the natural or artificial environment. That’s why surveyors are now also often tasked to prepare a topographic survey or contour map of the site. This gives a more complete picture to project managers, engineers and architects before designing or planning the project.

In other words, it’s about analysing the terrain. What are the nearby structures? How does traffic flow in the area? How will the structure be positioned or oriented relative to the lake or ocean? What about how the sunlight moves and enters the building?

These variables are not trivial anymore. After all, we also have to consider the everyday use of the building and the residential or commercial units. It’s also about the everyday and long-term function of the building.

For instance, what are the nearby man-made and natural features in the site? Are there nearby sky-high structures in the area? Are there hills and slopes that might hinder or enhance the view? What about the natural ecosystems that might be disturbed during the construction?

The increasing complexity of construction projects

Back then, construction might had been a lot simpler because there were fewer variables to be considered. There were fewer restrictions and it’s likely that environmental awareness was not in the same level as we have now.

But modern times now require considering the environment and several restrictions. This is the result of better awareness and a better focus on responsible land development. Add to that the increasing population and structural densities especially in urban areas.

These modern challenges have made surveying and construction in general much more complex. In addition, the risks of legal issues (e.g. property encroachment) rise because of the complexity. That’s why surveyors now use the most up-to-date technologies to accurately determine the land boundaries (where the developer is allowed to build on).

For instance, back then people used the Gunter’s chain for surveying (determine the corners and then almost manually measure the distance between them). But now, instead of the Gunter’s chain, surveyors now use GPS devices (Global Positioning Systems). These systems work by utilising the information provided by satellites. The satellites (at least 4 GPS satellites are visible at any time wherever you are on the planet) transmit information about their position at regular time intervals. Based on these information, the GPS receiver can pinpoint your location using a process called trilateration.

Using the technology and interpreting the information requires expertise and experience. Although GPS devices yield far more accurate information than the Gunter’s chain, it’s still about expertise because there might be false signals and inconsistencies in the information and measurements.

Accurate measurements are crucial in planning the layout, dimension and orientation of the entire construction site. After all, these measurements can dictate how many or how large each apartment unit could be. This similarly applies to mixed-use residential and commercial structures. It’s especially the case with major projects such as the Vue Apartment Complex in Bondi Junction. With its beauty, value and sophistication, all apartments offered during the initial release were actually sold out for just 2 hours. The success of the project can be somehow attributed to the proper surveying and construction. As discussed earlier, surveyors have a crucial role in the accurate planning (e.g. determining land boundaries, setting the dimensions, responsible land development). Accurate surveying is also important in preventing legal issues later on. During the construction of projects of this scale, surveyors might had to deal with inconsistencies and erroneous information resulting from outdated surveying technologies and methodologies.

Other things surveyors do

Registered surveyors are best known for their work in determining land boundaries. However, their scope of duties and capabilities now cover:

  • Giving competent advice on land development (and its efficient administration)
  • Government policy making & taxation
  • Preparing subdivision proposals (and later on supervising the subdivision works and services)
  • Transactions on strata ownership and boundaries

As with determining property boundaries, accurate and consistent information is also crucial in these kinds of tasks. After all, it’s almost impossible to give out competent advice if the reference information was inaccurate in the first place.

Millimetres do matter in surveying because even just a small error or minor deviation can throw the entire project off course. The errors even get magnified for large-scale projects such as >20 storey apartments and thousands of kilometres of roads. We also have to consider the potential waste in excavation (determining cut and fill volumes, minimising costs in importing of material).

Surveyors now also play an important role in assessing the flood risks in an apartment building or other structures. They analyse the topography of the land and other risk factors that may contribute to the flooding of the site. The risks may not be apparent at first but with the output from surveyors, the site’s flooding risks can be accurately evaluated.

That’s because registered surveyors will also determine the precise elevation of your land relative to the sea level. They will also take into account the Australian Height Datum (recorded tide gauges) and the resulting risks once your proposed structure is built. With those data and information, they can even determine the “flood expectancy.” For example, is there a possibility of once in 5 years flood (expressed as 1:5)? Longer timelines can also be projected (e.g. 1:100, or once in 100 years).

Surveyors and apartment construction

Often what’s behind the scenes are the most crucial in erecting an apartment complex. What most people see is the actual construction or excavation activity. But before these things can happen, accurate measurements and information should be acquired first that relate to land boundaries, land elevations and the natural (mountains, hills, bodies of water, wildlife, ecosystems) and artificial features (surrounding buildings) of the site.

This way, architects and engineers can acquire complete information about the proposed site and its terrain. They can then use the information provided by the surveyors to come up with the optimal design, save on costs and maximise the long-term value of the resulting structure. In addition, the information from surveying is crucial to responsible land development that contributes to sustainable economic development.

Here at Geosurv we take a systems approach and big-picture thinking when it comes to surveying. Our registered surveyors focus on the clients’ requirements and the long-term value of the resulting structure. We also look at all other facets that directly relate to the planning and eventual construction of the building.

Through the years we’ve gained experience and expertise in surveying for residential developments. As we build our reputation, we’ve also built our presence in several locations including Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Albury, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Contact us today for more information if you require experienced and client-focused surveyors for your project.