Types of Surveying Equipment

We’ve all seen workers on the side of the road with tripods and strange looking tools near sites that will soon be excavated and built on. What these workers are doing is land surveying, which is simply defined as means to pinpoint the terrestrial and three-dimension elements of a particular area of land. So how do these surveyors complete their work quickly and efficiently? With the precise help of new surveying technology, the tools available to surveyors make the task of sharply defining points much faster and accurate.

In the past, the instruments used to survey land were simpler in design, but harder to use in practice. These included chains, solar compasses and compasses. For instance, chains with a specified size linkage would be used to measure distances from point to point, while compasses would determine the distance of that line.

As time progressed, newer technologies were developed to remove some of the manual calculations needed to progress with surveying. One such tool is called a planimeter – planimeters measure asymmetrical land eliminating the need for charts and manual calculations.

One of the main tools used by land surveyors today is a gadget that is also quite prominent in the lives (and cars) of millions of people – the GPS system. A GPS (or global positioning system) works with satellites that scan the earth from space and very accurately graph the view and transmit it into data to view on the small GPS or computer screen for surveyors to look at. The only downside to GPS systems is the difficulty they have reading land coordinates in dense forest area and the surroundings of concrete structures.

Of course, there are hundreds of other tools that land surveyors use on a regular basis, but these few examples should give you a good idea into how these people do their jobs.

TV Series on History: How the States got their Shapes

How the states got their shapeIf you haven’t seen this already, it’s a great show on the History Channel called “How the States Got their Shapes”, and it is worth watching an episode.  Filled with interesting facts and interviews, the show focuses on a surveyor trying to re-trace the footsteps of the famous surveyors Mason & Dixon.  Click here for more information.

Godfrey-Hoffman & Hodge Receives 2010 Best of Business Award

Godfrey-Hoffman Assoc., LLC Receives 2010 Best of Business Award
Small Business Commerce Association’s Award Honors the Achievement
SAN FRANCISCO, March 22, 2011, Godfrey-Hoffman Assoc., LLC has been selected for the 2010 Best of Business Award in the Engineers-Consulting category by the Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA)
The Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA) is pleased to announce that Godfrey-Hoffman Assoc., LLC has been selected for the 2010 Best of Business Award in the Engineers-Consulting category.
The SBCA 2010 Award Program recognizes the top 5% of small businesses throughout the country. Using statistical research and consumer feedback, the SBCA identifies companies that we believe have demonstrated what makes small businesses a vital part of the American economy. The selection committee chooses the award winners from nominees based off statistical research and also information taken from monthly surveys administered by the SBCA, a review of consumer rankings, and other consumer reports. Award winners are a valuable asset to their community and exemplify what makes small businesses great.
About Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA)
Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA) is a San Francisco based organization. The SBCA is a private sector entity that aims to provide tactical guidance with many day to day issues that small business owners face. In addition to our main goal of providing a central repository of small business operational advice; we use consumer feedback to identify companies that exemplify what makes small business a vital part of the American economy.
SOURCE: Small Business Commerce Association

Stuck on the Border

There is one issue that seems to come up consistently when discussing the southern border of the United States – where does American end and Mexico start? Fences do line many areas of the border, but at other intersections of the land there is no barrier because of poor planning. Whether or not you agree with the idea of a fence lining our southern border, it must be understood that surveying this area of land is difficult and that many citizens find it hard to deal with.

That is, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, has become a major concern for people living on the border whose land has not been surveyed correctly:

“The Homeland Security Department last year put up a tall steel barrier across the fields from [Pamela] Taylor’s home. The government calls it the border fence, but it was erected about a quarter-mile north of the Rio Grande, leaving Taylor’s home between the fence and the river. Her two acres now lie on a strip of land that isn’t Mexico but doesn’t really seem like the United States either.”

The issue is one of security for Taylor, according to the article, but it’s also about knowing where her land lies.  With part of America and part of Mexico in her backyard, Taylor’s land is technically in a precarious no man’s land. This occurred because of poor planning by civil engineers and land surveyors.

“But here, where the border’s eastern edge meets the Gulf of Mexico, the urgency of national security met headlong with geographical reality. The Rio Grande twists through Brownsville and surrounding areas, and planners had to avoid building on the flood plain. So the barriers in some places went up more than a mile from the river.While the border fence almost everywhere else divides Mexico and the U.S., here it divides parts of the city.”

Flood Zones Becoming a Bigger Issue

This winter was one of the worst many parts of the United States have ever seen. During one of the blizzards, snow was actually falling in 49 out of the 50 states, excluding only Florida.  Slowly, as it came closer to warm temperatures and the spring season, many town officials, insurance representatives, land surveyors and civil engineers had to assess how much flooding may occur from the meltdown of the many feet of snow in so many places.  One issue being looked at by government officials were the rules about flood insurance boundaries – when homeowners needed flood insurance and how the new flood zones would be drawn.

Thankfully, a congressman from Michigan was looking out for citizens located in precarious areas, according to a report from WILX:

“In a town hall meeting, Congressman Tim Walberg told Michiganders he introduced a new bill, the Floodplain Maps Moratorium Act. The bill would delay homeowners in newly drawn flood zones from having to purchase flood insurance for five years. “It appears they are in great error and people that never had to purchase flood insurance now have to do that at a great cost,” said Rep. Tim Walberg, (R) Michigan.”

Even though the new law and flood zones drawn by surveyors have made the matter of getting flood insurance easier for citizens, some still aren’t happy with what seems like forced insurance:

“One commissioner [sic] of Eaton County now finds his home to be in a new flood zone, meaning it has a 26 percent chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. The commissioner says all but one of the 22 municipalities in Eaton County are negatively affected by the new maps.

FEMA declined to comment on the propsed [sic] legislation. But a state engineer that works with FEMA says the new maps are more accurate. But in some areas, such as Eaton County, the elevation on the topographic map were drawn to 10 foot contour intervals and could be more precise.”

It still stands to be seen whether or not this law will go into effect, but this story shows how important the zoning plans that land surveyors make can be.

Advances in Surveying

Surveying is an intricate skill that requires the utmost attention to detail and a firm grasp on the mechanics of science, physics and mathematics. Normally, surveying has been done by hand, using stakes and other tools to map out locales. The goal for surveyors is to determine the topography and boundary resolution of the areas that need surveying.

However, this element of surveying has taken a turn towards technology, with computer guided systems becoming the norm. According to an entry in the Construction Blog, global positioning systems have taken over the reins of surveying equipment, making the process simpler for surveyors:

“The premise behind the technology is simple: just like using GPS in your car, a GPS machine control system tells excavators where to drive equipment. Additionally, these systems indicate the grade to excavate at. Depending on which version is being used, machine control systems either provide instruction on where to position the blade or automatically do it for drivers.”

The article goes as far as to say that GPS machine control systems “replace surveyors’ old jobs – especially staking.” The machine control relays the necessary data faster and more efficiently than the old process. However, this does not mean that your local CT engineering firm’s surveying team isn’t needed anymore – the opposite is actually the case:

“So if staking is no longer necessary, are surveyors still necessary? Absolutely. Historical roles like boundary resolution and topographic survey work cannot be automated, so surveyors will always be needed for these. But they are also the best people to take on more modern duties, such as managing the GPS machine control system.”

Some may think that this advancement in technology has taken a certain role away from the traditional surveyor, but it has actually given that surveyor more opportunity. With these technologies in place, surveying has become more than just staking properties – it has become an area of professional and mechanical growth!

Students to Learn from New Surveying Equipment

Land surveying should be considered an art form of sorts, instead of just a means of determining the level of land in certain areas. At a base level, surveying is a technique wherein terrestrial position of points and the angles and distance between them help establish land maps, the perimeter of areas and other ownership and/or governmental purposes. Many times, this blog has referenced the amount of skills that a land surveyor must have to complete this task, from a knowledge of mathematics to physics to law and everything in between.

According to Opti-cal, some engineering students in Ireland are going to be able to use some new, high tech surveying equipment to make their measurements and estimations more accurate:

“The Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) has taken delivery of a Leica Viva TS15 Robotic Total Station, which will allow students to learn how to undertake high-end surveys on the exact equipment that is used by professionals the world over. The students will be able to use the total station to take laser distance measurements of up to 3.5 kilometres. It is the latest addition to the institute’s advanced surveying equipment, having had a GPS station installed on the Dublin Road campus last year.”

This type of technology will be able to integrate with computer aided drawing software, the kind which locally based CT engineering firms use to model buildings and the area surrounding them. By syncing this type of software up with the new tools, surveying students can complete some architectural navigation of a buildings, land masses and other necessary areas. This type of technology helps immensely with efficiency as well – because the 3D models that are made are so accurate, return trips to the project site are rarely needed.

Partial roof collapse in North Haven

“As you are aware the horrible weather of the past few days/weeks/months has put quite a strain on the integrity of many structures in our area. GHA was able to come to the assistance of a building owner here in North Haven who had the unfortunate experience of a partial roof failure at a warehouse structure. GHA performed survey, column location and truss heights to determine the integrity of the remaining portion of the building. This quick work made it possible for the owner to get most of his business back up and running while the contractors made necessary repairs to the collapsed portion of the building.
If you find any of your contacts in a similar situation please think of GHA as part of the solution….”

New Haven Proposing Runoff Tax

Lately, there has been a rash of nasty winter storms unleashing havoc on the roads of Connecticut. This is par for the course in the Northwest, so it’s really no surprise to anyone who has lived up here for longer than a few years. Although snow storms immediately affect most of us by making road conditions difficult, we never really think about how much snow storms affect our sewer systems. As blizzards end and the sun begins to melt snow, the sewers can easily become flooded and overwhelmed by the amount of water surging underground.

The city of New Haven has proposed a controversial measure to deal with the aftermath of storms. According to a story in the New Haven Register, the city has planned a new commission to enforce possible storm taxes:

“The city wants to create a Stormwater Authority, a plan that involves charging a new user fee to homeowners, businesses and nonprofits based on the amount of runoff they generate.

Under the proposed plan, residents would pay a small flat fee, while properties with parking lots and big buildings would pay more. The idea is to switch from a taxpayer-funded system to a user fee-funded system to pay for storm water services such as maintenance, street sweeping, catch basin cleaning and other costs.”

The tax would appropriately tax big corporations and businesses that cause more runoff than regular homes. The article says that the current cost of managing runoff is $2.5 million and apparently this tax would make up for a large amount of that cost.

If this measure passes, it might be wise to hire a CT engineering firm to take a look at your property and find ways to augment the runoff from your business. You might save some money in the long run.

UK Shows Growth for Engineering Jobs

Engineering firms are faced with an absolute myriad of tasks on a regular basis. One day they may have a project requiring civil engineering design for a building restoration and the next they may need to run a veritable slew of surveys on a new spot for a public park. It stands to reason that the breadth of skills that an engineering firm represents would be a boon to any economy, here or abroad.

Currently, engineering firms in the United Kingdom are reporting that their respective companies are “upbeat” about new employment possibilities for engineers out of work. This, according to the Liverpool Daily Post, is due to the prime minister’s request for companies to “invest and grow.” The survey of engineering firms discussed in this article references how these businesses plan on achieving this goal:

“Some 76% of companies say their growth strategies will be achieved by increasing innovation in the UK and 69% by increasing capital investment. It is also highly export driven, with exports accounting for more than half of turnover in 40% of companies and one third having production facilities outside the UK.”

The article also talks about how important the British government can be in this process, and what must be done to accomplish the goals outlined by authorities and firms alike:

“The North West is the UK’s biggest manufacturing region with almost 15,000 companies employing about 350,000 people, and output worth £21.1bn out of a UK total of £155bn. However, the report warns that the Government must work with the sector to ensure its continued growth, or risk arresting its impressive progress.”

In the end, a story like this proves how essential engineers are all over the world. Without their skills and know-how, a lot of projects would never be completed correctly. That’s why people study to be engineers in the first place – to gain a different perspective on the world and the way that we build on top of it.