Canadian Consulting Engineer

Survey Control: The essential reference for every decision, and every successful project

April 27, 2022
By Written by: Dene Gott, Engineering Licensee, P.Tech.(Eng.), PMP – Manager, Infrastructure at GeoVerra

Brought to you by GeoVerra

The price was right and the job was done quickly.

But there was one small problem—the boundaries were incorrectly placed, about 100 metres off where they should be. So the building proceeded on an oil company’s right-of-way, alarmingly close to a pipeline.

Now it was a big problem (for another survey firm which we will not name).

Critical Components

“There was a safety aspect to this project,” says Dene Gott, Project Manager at GeoVerra (who had no relation to the project). “They could’ve built a foundation right into an active pipeline. On top of that, they couldn’t get permits to proceed with building more of the project until it was sorted out, which usually means removing the building. That’s a high-cost component that wasn’t anticipated or perhaps even possible.”

This is one of many reasons it’s critical to work with a professional, qualified legal surveyor—the ramifications from cost, structural, and safety standpoints can be monumental if you don’t. After all, location is the single most important factor when it comes to any project, with parcel or legal boundaries acting as your initial and continuous form of control.

When Success is Predictable

Without control, we get unpredictability—a driver of stress, cost, and hazards. “Yet it still happens more than it should,” says Gott. “Our team helps fix projects just like this example—projects that didn’t have the proper controls from the beginning.”

To avoid those experiences entirely and set both parties up for success, control surveys must be set carefully. They establish reliable, sustainable reference points to be used as the basis for and throughout a project’s lifecycle and beyond. Once the surveyor determines the control points, all subsequent work complying to the control survey will be consistent and seamless—there to inform further engineering and development planning.

Besides focusing on the time and effort it takes to establish an accurate control network, Gott and his team educate clients on what needs to be understood from survey results and how the control fits into the project from the very beginning. One example of technical knowledge is knowing the limitations of equipment, like when it’s appropriate to use GPS or laser measurements to achieve the highest level of accuracy. “Our insights ensure the engineer’s design will translate correctly into the field,” says Gott.

Ultimate Cost Control

Survey control is also very important because of the large and expensive assets that arrive at project sites. “On a recent project, a major component cost approximately $150 million,” says Gott. Built off site, these vessels and modules require a much greater reliance on the control to be accurate—within three millimetres of accuracy to be exact!

“If the control is not accurate when teams go to set in these modules or vessels, the bolts simply won’t fit,” says Gott. That means altering in the field or using a crane—extremely expensive solutions that also have associated safety risks.

“If it doesn’t fit on site, not many people can afford that bill,” says Gott. “Unfortunately, these avoidable scenarios do happen, costing a lot of money, prolonging the schedule, and carrying potential safety implications.”

Given the magnitude of what control surveys can, well, control, it’s crucial that an experienced team with a proven track record starts your next project. At GeoVerra, we make sure your project’s foundation rests on unmatched quality control services. Contact us today.

Dene Gott is a manager in the infrastructure team at GeoVerra, one of Canada’s largest surveying and geomatics companies. He provides technical expertise for engineering and construction firms working on large-scale industrial and infrastructure projects. To learn more about GeoVerra’s capacity and experience, connect with Dene Gott or Director of Business Development, Pat McNally.


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