A topographic (or topographical) survey is a detailed mapping analysis of a specific area to identify the natural and man-made features of an area. This includes the terrain, differences in elevation of the ground, but also other physical elements present on a site such as boundary locations, existing buildings and their heights, streets, trees, water features, overhead lines for power and telephones, but also hidden elements such as the water table and underground utilities. Smaller elements such as manholes, utility poles, street furniture or retaining walls will also be highlighted in a report.
A survey will outline the contour lines of the area in question and demonstrate any noticeable hills or dips in the landscape which may prove problematic for developers. Surveys can also include sub-surface elements and take into account underground utilities information and drainage surveys using underground cameras in order to build up a full picture of the site in question.
This information provided in a survey helps architects, planners, and engineers visualise the land that is intended to be developed and assists in the vital planning stages of any projects. A full topographic survey will help identify any issues (that may have remained unforeseen without the survey) and could have caused delay and costs further down the line with a building project.
Reasons to get a topographic survey:
Here are 5 reasons why you should commission a professional topographic survey:
1. Saves time and money
Having an accurate picture of the land can reduce the risk of costly mistakes on a development caused by unforeseen issues. It makes sense to identify those issues from the start to ensure that a project is not held up or even abandoned after significant time and money has already been spent on it. One such example might be the need for extensive excavation for deep foundations which can be costly and time consuming and would be highlighted in a report. A topographic survey will allow a proper assessment of the viability of a project from an early stage.
2. Helps identify viability for stable foundations
A topographic survey can help builders understand whether they can actually build in a particular area. For example, if a portion of land is particularly steep then this can make it extremely difficult for stable foundations to be established, or established within a reasonable budget. A topographic survey in this instance would allow developers to know what difficulties they might face, which might even rule out the development on that site early on.
3. Identifies site restraints
A survey may reveal issues either natural or man-made that impact on a project. Issues such as the heights of surrounding land which may cause issues with neighbouring properties in regards to overlooking are commonplace when developing in already developed areas. Underground utilities information has to be taken into consideration and can place limitations on the location for a proposed development. A survey can also highlight any potential issues with protected trees or animal species such as bats which might require a follow-up arboricultural or ecological survey.
4. Reveals information that might otherwise be hidden
A topographic survey can also reveal some site-specific aspects, such as soil type or the height of the water table, which could add unforeseen costs or difficulties to a project. A survey can also provide valuable insight into how a site’s previous use has affected the land. For example, many potential development sites may have previously been used as landfill which would have implications for future use of the site and again add have implications for how the site can be utilised if it can be used at all.
5. Identifying the most favourable location for development
A survey allows planners to take into account the convenience and location of existing utilities. For example, if there is an existing water main, sewage system, or other underground utilities in the vicinity, then it makes sense to locate the development as near to the pre-existing utilities in order to hook into the infrastructure and keep costs down. A survey can also help with identifying the optimum layout for a building project. An example of this could include taking into account the neighbouring buildings and taking advantage of factors such as maximising sunlight with south facing windows and gardens.
A topographic survey is an absolute must for any development project. It goes some way to providing certainty to developers ensuring that they have all the available information on the site to avoid unforeseen problems, delay and additional costs. Without these surveys, at as early a part of the process as possible, would leave developers open to great risk. For this reason a topographic survey is not only prudent but would usually be a requirement before proper financial backing for a project can properly be secured.