What is a topographical survey?
Topographical surveys, ground surveys or Topo Surveys are accurate surveys produced by Land Surveyors to precisely depict the topography or terrain of an area of interest or parcel of land and the structures and features upon it. Traditionally topographical surveys have been measured with a theodolite, total station or a GNSS receiver but increasingly laser scanners and drones are playing an increasing role in data collection. Large sites used to be the domain of manned aircraft that measured a topographical survey with Lidar or Photogrammetry. More recently these large sites are being surveyed with a drone at a much-reduced cost, not only compared to a manned aircraft but also a traditional land survey.
A utility survey depicts underground and overground features and services with their connections overlaid upon a topographical survey. These services can be located with radio detection or ground penetrating radar. Services and their attributes (size & depth) are marked on the surface with paint and measured in the same way as a topographical survey.
What is included in a topographical survey?
A topographical survey can be a 3d model, a 2d map or a plan showing physical features. Features could be structures, utility covers, areas of ground cover, trees or vegetation. Levels are shown with breaklines to control the shape of the surface model and contours to join points of equal level.
Typically utility service covers and other service markers are identified, sometimes with underground services traced and marked with overhead services, depending on client specifications. Adjacent or overlooking features can be included to assist in assessing the setting of a site in the wider landscape, in a street scene or in assessing the proximity of critical features.
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Why do you need a topographical survey?
A topographical survey provides a comprehensive overview of the land, helping to identify any potential problems and plan future development. This type of survey is also useful for determining where construction can and cannot take place. Additionally, a topographical survey can be used to help with the design process, allowing engineers and architects to accurately envision the project before breaking ground.
Typical uses for topographical surveys
Add clarity, context and understanding with a topo survey
For many projects, a topographical survey can be combed with a hydrographic survey, a measured building survey, or an underground utility survey, adding flexibility, understanding and context to a topo survey. As a result, usability can be vastly improved. Our surveyors can add various kinds of spatial data to a topo survey.
- Highway access and visibility assessments:
Add data beyond a site to include adjacent highways or other rights of way to assess safety.
- Street scene surveys:
Add elevation of frontages around a site to enable a fuller understanding of how a project sits within adjoining properties.
- Planning applications:
A Land Surveyor can employ various techniques to acquire offsite data in a discrete, non-invasive way. Overlooking can be an important factor. We can use remote survey methods to measure roof and window heights. We can accurately measure offsite trees to indicate the Root Protection Areas of overhanging trees.
- Landscape setting:
Understanding the wider landscape setting of a site can be important in planning applications. Assessing views into the site from adjacent land or rights of way can be a critical factor. More: How can drone surveys help with planning applications
- Visual line of sight assessments:
For telecommunications having a clear line of sight can be very important. A survey can help you understand how a new building could impact existing telecoms.
- Utility mapping:
A service trace survey can help map buried services using radio detection or ground-penetrating radar. Understanding the impact of critical wayleave or safety distances can be a lifesaver.
- Flood impact assessment and prevention:
Understanding the topography of the land and how water accumulates and runs off the land can be critical
- Asset management:
A robust inventory of assets could save you time and money. This could be for a local authority logging their street furniture onto their GIS system. An accurate plan of a site showing where and how your assets are located and connected could make your site operation more efficient.
For a much wider view of a site’s context and setting take topographical surveys to the next level with a drone survey