Surveying and the construction industry

Surveying may sound like a career path which involves stopping people in the street to do a ‘quick survey’ about some insignificant issue, such as their favourite flavour of ice cream. However, people who pursue careers in this area are actually some of the most important people in the construction industry.

Surveying, in its most basic form, involves producing a detailed critical inspection of something. When anything is built, it is crucial that each and every factor that may affect construction is correctly identified, assessed and evaluated. What is the topography of this area of land? How far is it between A and B? What materials are underneath the surface that might impact on construction?

Surveying is required at every stage of construction, from the conceptualisation of ideas, to the building and maintenance of any structure. Overall, this subsector can be broken down into the following areas: building, general practice, geomatics, hydrographic, land and quantity. Some areas overlap in terms of their focus, but they all use different methods of investigation and surveying.

What are the different types of construction surveyors?

Building surveyors are the most commonly known type of surveyor. These guys are responsible for carrying out structural surveys on existing buildings and ensuring that the construction of new ones is being conducted in the correct manner. Building surveyors are present from the design process to maintenance. As such, these surveyors may often act like a project manager, holding responsibility for many processes throughout the cycle of construction.

Geomatics and land surveyors focus on topography (i.e. the lie of the land). Geomatics surveyors use satellite images and other information to determine the exact nature of a landscape. Land surveyors, on the other hand, work more ‘on the ground’, using a variety of instruments, such as an ‘auto level’ (a specialist levelling instrument), to determine the contours of the ground and measure distances between certain points on a construction site.

Hydrographic surveyors are concerned with water-based surveying. They use satellite navigation and other technologies to accurately measure the depths of oceans, rivers and lakes. They are the darlings of offshore oil rigs, dock installations, dredgers, and any other operations that are concerned with locating the depths of aquatic environments.

Conversely, quantity surveyors’ careers are all about budgets and calculations. Once the architectural design is completed and the construction methods and strategies have been defined, all materials and related resources must be calculated and priced.

These people are the guardians of construction budgets. When anything is purchased, when delays occur, or when the original project plan is altered, quantity surveyors are responsible for ensuring that costs do not escalate. Imagine how useful this lot would be on Grand Designs!

If you’re sizing up a career in surveying, and you’ve got a head for numbers but want to put them towards the more practical side of things, there may be an open position for you!

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