Some jokester once said, “Civil Engineers were created because Architects cried for help!” And, if you ask Civil Engineers about Land Surveyors, the joke goes, “Arguing with a Land Surveyor is like wrestling with a pig in the mud. After a few minutes, you realize the pig likes it!”
Despite your perception of what they do, civil engineers and land surveyors are tightly connected and interdependent. Civil engineers do big work, big projects like highways, bridges, stadiums, overpasses, hospitals, and the large things that make your life easier.
Land surveyors give civil engineers the “go-ahead.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surveyors, “Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.”
Here are 6 civil engineering projects where you need a land surveyor:
1. Highway Projects:
There are no small highway projects. They cross property and terrain with long and wide plans. Land surveyors keep the projects in line with the property lines purchased and allocated for the development. They effectively protect private property owners and provide civil engineers with the data to best utilize the lines within which they can work.
They also measure the rise, fall, and roll of the terrain ahead of the project. It’s up to the civil engineers to determine the required resources, the best materials, cost-effective methods, technology options, and more. The engineers will often send the surveyors back for additional info determined by their tech-aided methods, GPS tools, and drones to revisit the contours as the project moves forward.
2. Electric Power Projects:
Civil engineers are among the powerhouses that make electrical power affordable and accessible to most of the world. They collaborate on the design and execute the plans for fossil-fueled plants, hydroelectric plants, nuclear plants, and waste materials-to-energy plants.
Surveyors again verify the land boundaries, rights, and easements on sizable properties. But because electric power plants have huge hazmat implications, the surveyors’ work on topographic data must include hydrographic analysis, planimetric studies of angles and planes, and discovery and confirmation necessary to satisfy American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).
3. FEMA Flood Plans:
Civil engineers seek to serve FEMA in preventive and recovery modes. They build flood prevention projects, wildfire protective barriers, beach reclamation plans, and more. But their work is usually in response to emergencies and disasters requiring them to forestall additional damage and/or salvage what’s left.
FEMA engineers commission land surveyors for help in both modes. FEMA promotes risk mapping, their Risk MAP (Risk, Mapping, Assessment, and Planning) initiative, “provides high-quality flood maps and information, tools to better assess the risk from flooding and planning and outreach support to communities to help them take action to reduce (or mitigate) flood risk.” The land surveyor brings unique tools and talents to measuring the topography to analyze flood risk and suggest preventive measures.
4. Transmission Towers:
Planning and erecting tall electric transmission towers take special skills and technology, The towers carry power across the continent-spanning rivers, climbing mountains, and crossing the plains. They are placed in odd places, hard to reach areas, and on various soil/rock conditions. Building the towers challenges engineers, contractors, and land surveyors.
Surveyors now have devices and technologies that make it easier to study the elevation and depression of the location, analyze the geology of the area, and determine the installation needs. The use of drones over unfavorable landscapes discovers and shares data previously unavailable.
5. Dam Construction:
Civil engineers need special support when building dams, harbors, and other marine projects. Land surveyors do their usual terrain studies, but they must also work with hydrographic surveys to examine the underwater topography.
Civil engineers must have data ready to build in and on water. They must know what lies beneath the surface in terms of craters, drifts, drop-offs, holes, and other hazards. They must anticipate the quality of the soils where they will drive piers, the variance in soils from bank to bank, and the effects of tidal changes.
6. Tunnel Building:
Building tunnels present major challenges. Laying pipelines and tunneling through rocky mountains or underwater calls for complex and heavy duties. Building tunnels pulls in many professional resources. Construction is likely to meet many unexpected turns.
The land surveyor is one important part of a team. Surveyors help determine the quality and stability of the soils involved. They read the water table and map the surface flooding potential. But their initial task involves identifying property lines and easements that may have increased or decreased because of public domain decisions.
The things the land surveyors do!
Surveying is an ancient trade. They may not have had a name for it long ago, but they couldn’t build The Great Pyramids or the Acropolis without the ability to measure the geometry. But the private property wasn’t an issue in those days.
The whole idea of private property and the rights of citizens to own and transfer the property came into the picture much later. Property rights allow people to acquire, divide, and convey land. The ownership also permits handing the property down to heirs.
Depending on state and local law, the rights may include ownership or control of the water and minerals on or below the land and the air above. It may include timber, farming, grazing and/or hunting rights. And, especially in wide open regions like the Dakotas, Montana, Texas, and Wyoming, those rights pass through families for generations, often without a clear paper trail.
Land surveyors remain the first step in identifying those boundaries and easements. Comes the time when developers want to mine, drill for oil, or plan a railroad or turnpike, that information can determine rights and values.
If those developers want to build homes, shopping centers, schools, or other social needs, they start with land surveys. And, when there’s a need for water control, utility expansion, and other major projects, they turn land surveyors to study the lay of the land.