The Ever-Evolving Science Of Construction Surveying

Construction Surveying Frisco TXConstruction surveying is a critical first step in ensuring that a building’s starting point and location on a block is accurate and correct before construction begins.  Basically, surveying is how builders confirm that what is drawn on the construction blueprint is what is actually built on the site.  In the past, this task was tedious, inefficient and often inaccurate, simply because calculations and measurements had to be made by surveyors who didn’t have the benefit of the kind of modern instrumentation in use today.  Fifty years ago, surveying teams chalked off measurements calculated by hand. Today, GPS coordinates taken by robotic instruments perform the same tasks, but with greater efficiency and accuracy.

Construction Surveying In The 20th Century

A variety of types of surveying techniques have been available since the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2700 B.C., but it wasn’t until the 20th century that the problem of measuring accurately over long distances was solved with the invention of the tellurometer in the 1950s by South African engineer Dr. Trevor Lloyd Wadley.  The tellurometer measured long distances using two microwave transmitters/receivers.  Also in the 1950s, electronic distance measurement (EDM) units were devised that used a multi-frequency phase shift of light waves to find a distance.  Both of these instruments saved surveyors from having to take days or weeks of chain measurements.

In the 1960s, surveyors used two-dimensional, architectural drawings to determine “control lines” that served as the benchmark coordinates that became the basis for construction.  The lines were measured by hand and marked with wooden stakes or chalk and required many man-hours of labor to accomplish.  In addition to the time spent measuring, a significant amount of time was also required to do the math necessary to verify that the distances, angles and heights recorded by instruments were correct.

Construction Surveying In The 21st Century

Today, robotic total stations that can aim themselves automatically and can be controlled remotely by a single person with a programmable, handheld device have replaced the inefficiencies of 20th-century techniques and equipment.  Thousands of man-hours are saved on construction projects every day, which not only reduces the amount of time needed to complete these projects but saves money, as well.

Using GPS, robotic total stations use satellites to ping location points to the device through what’s known as an electronic theodolite, which is integrated with an EDM to read slope distances from the instrument to a designated point on the construction site.  This technology is evolving to go beyond just the initial site survey process to increasing compatibility, with 3D drawings and virtual models.  Robotic total stations allow construction teams to use live drawings to identify control lines and make measurements so survey points are automatically built into the digital models.  The ultimate goal of these advances in construction surveying technology is to build structures that reflect their designs as accurately as possible.

When you need construction surveying in Frisco, TX, call us at John Cowan & Associates at (972) 635-4300 or visit us online at

Construction Surveying Frisco TX
John Cowan & Associates
10147 CR 135
, Texas 75762
(903) 581-2238

Photo Credit: kalinovsky

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