Architect wanting to gather and stake own informationPosted by tylertmoore on July 22, 2022 at 8:18 pm
Hello, I am an Architect who is looking to start learning the ins and outs of surveying/mapping. I’ve hired and used many surveyors information, but know nothing about what they actually do to provide me with a CAD file of topo and various significant points. My goal is to be able to show up to a site and be able to target various points and get their location and elevation relative to a random benchmark I set. My goal is NOT to circumvent a licensed surveyor and will continue to use their information as typical. This is simply a tool for me to gather specific information on my own for design purposes.
Id like to gather info and eventually convert it for use in Revit, or other Autodesk product. I’d also like to then be able to stake out new points on the same site that I’ve created based on whatever it is I’m designing (building corners, column locations, etc.). Again, this information won’t be used but is intended for my own design process.
I realize this is an open ended question, but is there a base set of equipment and processes for this? What are the terms and processes I should start learning? What type of equipment will get me where I am going?
Your thoughts, whether general or specific, are helpful and appreciated as I dive into this world. Criticism is fine if you feel the need. Ultimately I am a very hands on person and would like to take some control of survey, topo, mapping information at a basic to moderate level.
- 30 Replies
- MemberJuly 22, 2022 at 10:13 pm
It can be pretty simple. It is all angles and distances. Depending on how precise and how accurately you want to measure those angles and distances will determine what tools you use to measure them with. Assume coords on your random benchmark and measure the horizontal and vertical angles as well as the distance to the point you want to put coords on. These coords can then be plotted in autocad and away you go. You will also have to assume reference line for your orientation so that you know where to turn your horizontal angle from. Vertical angle is typically referenced with 0 being perpendicular to gravity or directly above you.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 12:25 am
Would be good for u to rent some equipment and teach yourself how to obtain data relative to your design.
not unlike a surveyor designing a building for his site design. Not trying to be curt.
I admire your desire as I want/have designed a few buildings to fit my projects. I appreciate the design a good architect provides.
nothing like hands on OJT experience to learn and appreciate what other professionals do.
good luck and budget the time to learn.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 4:15 am
Rent yourself an SX10 and have at it. Watch the Trimble videos, and oh boy howdy you can start dumping tons of great data into Revit and even InfraWorks. Rental would be great to avoid buying the cheaper and more difficult instruments to learn the old and tried and true methods of understanding the evolution of survey and mapping. Youre going to have fun!
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 5:28 am
What’s your budget? If your intent is to do this solo, I think you can probably get a used robot and data collector with some life left in them for around $15k. If you want new, add another $10k or more.
If you have a helper you can cut that in half or better.
But the idea of trying to learn from scratch how to do what surveyors do strikes me as pretty daunting, and I have a pretty fierce DIY streak. We do this stuff every day, and sometimes getting all the equipment to function properly and talk to the software is a challenge all by itself. I wouldn’t describe the learning curve as gentle.
Good luck, though!
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 7:23 am
I would advise 2 things:
1. When you hire a surveyor arrange to be on site with the surveyor to learn how things are done and what points are shot. Add your own points of interest.
2. Have a look at the Leica BLK360 scanner for collecting your data. As an architect you should have benefit for your work when designing in existing structures and it has an easy workflow to capture all data even outside. And it is rather cheap compared to other survey instruments and it has a flat learning curve! You should check a scanning forum too.
It won??t let you stake out, but once scanned you should have enough reference points on site to go with a simple tape and level. If there are little reference points on site, set already your own points before you start scanning.
Succes and keep us posted!
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 3:02 pm
Start with right triangles. You need only two inputs, two angles or two lengths or an angle and a length to solve for all lengths and angles of a right triangle. 3,4,5 rule or a^2+b^2=c^2, Soh, Cah, Toa and all that. Once you can solve right triangles in your sleep, move on to coordinate geometry by assigning an x,y value to two points (graph paper or just in CAD) and calculation the bearing between them. It may be best to practice converting bearings to azimuths prior to this.
Once you can grasp the relationship between right triangles, their length, their angles and bearings and azimuths, then buy a Suunto KB-14 compass (get the compass/clinometer if you want to mess around with grade/slope) and a 200′ rag tape and four screw drivers or something similar to stick in the ground with no more than 100′ of separation between them. Name the screwdrivers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Assign a coordinate value of 1000,2000 to point 1 (screwdriver 1) then site with your compass between 1 and 2 and label the bearing or azimuth on a graph paper sketch showing a rough sketch of your four points. Using a partner or by placing the screwdriver through the hook of your rag tape, measure the distance between point 1 and point 2 being careful to pull hard enough to eliminate sag but not so hard as to stretch the tape. Rehook the tape to point 2 after taking a compass reading between point 2 and point 3. Measure the distance between 2 and 3 and repeat on all sides until you’ve measured from point 4 back to the point of begining, screwdriver 1.
Now you can do a bunch of fun things. Calculate coordinates on points 2,3,4, and the closing measurement from 4 to 1. It’s improbable that you’ll end up exactly matching the original coordinate value for point 1 (1000,2000). The distance between your original coordinate value for point 1 and your closing coordinate value is your error of closure. You’ll also need to calculate your angular error of closure. This is where you’ll need to understand the relationship between the number of sides of a given polygon and the sum of its angles, interior or exterior, I prefer the latter which is represented by the formula (n-2)*180 where n is the number of sides and 180 is degrees. By knowing the sum of your interior angles, (4-2)*180=360degrees in a four sided polygon, you can use your compass derived bearings to calculate the interior angles and figure out how far off you are from 360 degrees.
Building from this you could get a carpenter’s level and assign an elevation to point 1 and carry the elevation from point to point back to the beginning and gauge your accuracy. In the past, I’ve used a clinometer to get a rough feel for where a road can go. Use the maximum slope based on zoning regulations and tie flagging at eye level where you think a road should go then site from flag to flag with the clinometer and record the slope. Adjust the flags accordingly. You can also use the clinometer to approximate the height of trees as well as to get a feel for the solar zenith in relation to tree canopy and house placement (great for green building design). These methods will help you in your practice much more than renting plug and play equipment. You’ll possess the ability to double check survey marks and stakes, calculate right angles over sloped land, and have knowledge of how to verify the accuracy of any set of measurements. Good luck.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 3:42 pm
Murphy has some very practical ideas there.
It will give you a very “nuts and bolts” idea of what’s going on.
Buy a total station, and it’s got a load of issues that you will want to understand. Prism offsets. Inst offsets. Display units. Etc.
Nothing is simple. Donuts look simple. But, read the ingredients list. Not simple anymore.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 4:59 pm
All of the previous is good advice. However, as a retired surveyor and college survey instructor I have slightly different advice. The Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors web site includes the following:
These Wisconsin Technical Colleges offer qualifying Associate Degrees.
- Gateway Technical College
- Madison Area Technical College
- Mid-State Technical College
- Milwaukee Area Technical College
- Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Program Faculty at these Technical Colleges can explain Wisconsin’s licensing requirements and provide guidance on starting your academic journey. They can also arrange a class visit so you can see what Surveying students are learning.
Given your existing qualifications you should qualify to take the initial field surveying course at one of these colleges. That should provide you with the field instrument, calculation and documentation (field notes) to CAD experience you require.
I worked with one Architect that was a U.S. Army geodetic control surveyor prior to his college work. He knew exactly what he needed from a survey crew and his instructions to the survey crews were clear and complete.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 5:14 pm
I can see collecting some measurements for your project…. but when you want to stake out improvements, I think you’re putting yourself on possibly thin ice. I’d suggest you talk to your liability insurance provider as well. You may say it’s not going to be used, but we’ve all seen things like that go bad fast. The time and expense you’ll incur to get any kind of reliable info doesn’t seem worth circumventing the use of a surveyor, but that’s just my opinion.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 6:21 pm
Learn to think in decimal feet and not inches. Sounds simple but I??ve found it??s hard wired into a lot people. Get your hands on some fundamental survey text books and get a handle on the basic math behind coordinate geometry. Having a firm grasp on the math, you??ll be ready to move onto the fundamentals of operating a total station of which there are many nuances. For learning purposes a conventional TS will work. You will also need a few tripods, tribrachs and prisms or reflectors for targets. At this point you can do this without the benefit of a datacollector or controller, a small computer to log measurements and perform calculations. It??s important that you first understand how the math works before automating things. Next you would likely benefit from spending a day with someone well versed in the operations of the equipment and run a simple traverse and learn how to close that traverse to assure blunders haven??t been introduced. The traverse measurements can be booked, detailing horizontal angles, measured slope distance and zenith angles. With these and a calculator you can generate your 3D coordinates. Once completely comfortable with this, you can consider investing in a data collector or even a robotic instrument. First have to walk before attempting to run. Good luck! This is a great place to get more specific questions answered. Remember this. The actual process of conventional surveying is not rocket science, however when things gets goobered up, it might as well be.Willy
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 9:06 pm
If you are a licensed Architect, my advice is not to attempt it. I understand the concept of being hands on but at your billable rate, doing things like this will eat up your budget quickly. To achieve what you decribe, there is no way to go about it without considerable training starting with basic field procedures, becoming proficient in the operation of any equipment you purchase, knowing what methods to use to obtain the desired results and understanding the limitations of the equipment.
None of the above has an easy approach. I’m assuming that you are not in a position to work on a survey crew for a year or two but if you are, that would be a great starting point. Once you have the field proceedures down and are proficient in running the instrument and data collector, you then have to move up to the next level of processing the collected date in the office and applying any needed conversions or corrections. None of this is achievable without a significant amout of time and energy invested, not to mention software licensing and equipment expenses.
As somebody said in another reply (which was excellant advice), check with your E & O insurance company to find out if they will even cover you if something you have done goes south. I would suggest to you that the answer will be no. I’m a PLS, and was a licensed Planner as well as having spent some years in Civil Engineering design under the supervision of a PE. I let my license as a PP go back in 2002, because I really did not enjoy going to review board meetings at night, learned to design sites, roads and infrastructure proficiently, then moved on to focus on my surveying career. I have well rounded experience and can spot most design flaws a mile away, as well as any mistakes my crews have made, but, that comes with 40 years of experience.
I lost the loving feeling of being hands on 10 years, except as it relates to my departments operations. Perhaps the best thing you could do is to visit your sites when the survey crews are there and point out the different features you want detailed, leaving the liability on the Surveyor if the data you receive. One serioouse mistake in the data you collect on your own and use in designing a large enough project could potentially sink a decently sized firm.
- MemberJuly 23, 2022 at 9:49 pm
“And then all you do is simply…”
- MemberJuly 24, 2022 at 2:44 pm
Surveying without a License ?
- MemberJuly 24, 2022 at 2:50 pmPosted by: @gary_g
Surveying without a License ?
In CA, architects are allowed to perform measurement work (e.g. topo, layout) pertaining to their projects. They aren’t allowed to do any boundary surveying, but pretty much anything else involving their design work is allowed.
- MemberJuly 24, 2022 at 3:21 pm
I’m not nit picking or attacking, just curious if it’s a license or a certification. I’ve never heard of a license for planning, and there’s lots I haven’t heard about yet nor learned about either.
I’m always wondering why we(unlicensed Techs/crew chiefs)need to be under surveyors to do layout work save the liability insurance pool the lawyers can dip into if someone makes a mistake egregious or just simple and unexpected.
if the company building the structures wants to risk it all and save money, and the engineer in charge is ok with it, is that an option for people to follow if they want to do so?
interesting Sunday morning discussion here for sure.
- MemberJuly 24, 2022 at 4:42 pm
My firm was in depositions last week because of a mess involving multiple violations concerning a house build. They didn’t use a surveyor. There are many issues to consider going from paper to ground.
- MemberJuly 24, 2022 at 4:44 pm
In most States, PE’s can do all sorts of survey work as long as it does not tie to boundaries. Surveying as a licensed profession in the US grew out of the Engineering profession. Engineers design functional structures that last for centuries. Architects design beautiful structures.
- MemberJuly 24, 2022 at 5:15 pm
but the question is
is there a legal statute that is required?
the inspection is done for safety, and tied to engineering, and architecture is woven Into that, but say the build is 100′ in all directions from anything boundary easement and utilities related.
do you need a surveyor to get it laid out or are they just pulled in for increased liability pool and for the reliability of their professional experience and ability?
I forgot to add…
Potential THRAC alert here…
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