Topographical Survey

What is meant by a topographical survey?


A topographical survey, or a land survey, is a detailed map that shows geographical features in an area. It can include natural features, like rivers, trees and hills, as well as human-made features like roads or buildings. The survey is drawn up by experts into o detailed drawing that includes information such as ‘and boundaries, neighbouring buildings and site levels.

The topographical survey will be used to pinpoint features in all the other surveys conducted

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Why do you need a topographical survey?


Topographical surveys are a tool for building on land or understanding your property’s location in relation to the surrounding area. They provide detailed information about the land including its elevation against sea level. The information will be used to inform your design work and for other surveyors to illustrate their findings against an accurate site plan.

Understand your site
Get an accurate view of the makeup of your site and its dimensions

Unlock future work
All parties that get involved on the site will request the topographical survey to complete their works

Define site dimensions
Receive a plan with your site dimensions and any points of interest

Map elevations
Map any existing building elevations and even neighbouring elevations to support your designs

What is the risk of not doing a topographical survey?


Without a topographical survey, you wouldn’t know the orientation and levels of the site which are critical in the design and construction of any building. The site could be built to the wrong levels compared to the roads and pavements adjoining the site. Armed with the information you need before you start planning your project, you can avoid costly redesigns or rescheduling/repeating tasks, creating a smoother property development project from start to finish.

What is a topographical survey used for?


Topographical surveys record the coordinates and height data for a particular section of land, to create maps that help you understand the terrain. This information can be used to understand which areas of your site are suitable for building on before you start the project. Designs can be accurately crafted to suit the site’s specific needs, without the need to redesign as the project progresses.

Topographical surveys can also be used by other surveyors to pinpoint elements within their surveys. This could include the position of the underground utilities or the trees for example.

How is a topographical survey completed?


A qualified surveyor will attend the site with their GPS laser. The site will be split into grids and the surveyor will use the GPS laser to measure the level of the ground against sea level. The surveyor will also note any notable features on the site such as fences, manholes and buildings. The completed output will be a plan of the site with all the levels and any key features identified.

What is included in a topographical survey?


Things that can be seen in a topographical survey may include existing buildings, tree positions, ground surfaces, streams, drainage details and boundaries. Land contours and spot levels will be included, showing the elevation of the terrain. The output will be a PDF plan and a DWG editable version that the design team and surveyors can use for their works.

How long does it typically take to complete a topographical survey?


This will depend on factors such as the size of the area to be surveyed. the type of terrain and the number of surveyors sent to carry out the work. As a guide, a small brownfield site could be surveyed in a day and the output would be available within a week

What are the key pieces of information that suppliers need from a client to complete a topographical survey?


The key pieces of information would include:

  • Site location
  • Redline boundary
  • Site access instructions
  • A scope of survey
  • Unencumbered access to the site excluding inside any buildings

What are the key items that would affect the cost of a topographical survey?

Factors such as the size of the geographical area to be surveyed, the type of the terrain and the location of the area i.e. is it easily accessible for the surveyors and what tools will be most suited to the job at hand all affect cost.

How to identify competent topographical surveyors?


As a minimum they should:

  • Abide by the Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007)
  • Abide by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Have an appropriate level of professional indemnity insurance
  • Have an internal quality assurance procedure
  • Have suitably trained and quality staff
  • Provide proof of all of the above

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*This article was originally posted on the RICS Land Journal At RenKap we pride ourselves on doing something great – for us that is helping to alleviate the Housing Crisis through supply-side solutions. Our platform is the first of its kind Development Management Platform. What......

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