surveying in ciivil engineering

Surveying in Civil Engineering

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Last Updated on June 20, 2021

Surveying in civil engineering is critical to the completion of many construction projects, including residential and industrial structures as well as infrastructure. It provides project managers and engineers with the geological details they need to construct a structure that can handle the local landscape and helps in the planning of their project.

What is surveying in civil engineering?

Surveying in civil engineering is the collection of different data about the land in the form of civil engineering.
Measurements of horizontal and vertical lengths between points, as well as details of the exact characteristics of the land formation and soil, are typical of surveying.


land surveyor

In civil engineering, surveying is also used to determine the three-dimensional relationships between various locations. Engineers use details such as distances and angles between points and lines to decide how to draw plans for public buildings, houses, highways, bridges, and other types of construction and infrastructure projects. To learn all sub disciplines of civil engineering which is related to surveying and geotechnical engineering, check here.

Methods of Surveying in Civil Engineering

1.Topographic or Detail Surveys



The aim of a topographic survey is to collect survey data on the land’s natural and man-made features, as well as its elevations. This data is then used to create maps. Typically, the task includes the following:

  • Collecting enough horizontal and elevation data from land points to provide enough data for plotting when the map is finished. For example, when surveying for the purpose of improving a taxi rank, the elements to be located include existing side walks, curbs, trees, an island, and so on. For instance, for a road junction, elements such as kerbs, roadmarking (white/yellowlines), and islands will be built.
  • Setting up horizontal and vertical controls that will be survey reference points. Leveling is the most accurate way of determining vertical control.
  • Calculating elevations, angles and distances.
  • The location and shape of natural and man-made features that might be necessary for the survey.

2.As-Built Survey

This type of survey is performed during or directly after a construction project for record keeping, completion analysis, and payment. An as-built survey indicates the location or position of features that have been built and are requiring completion evaluation. Typically, results of as-built surveys are compared to design details. They demonstrate the difference between designed details and constructed details.

as-built survey

The work scope always changes as a development project and its construction progress.
Items are moved, added, or removed from the original design. Changes must be recorded in order to demonstrate what was actually built, in addition to being implemented in the field. As a result, the owner typically needs a final record that shows any modifications, or more importantly, any change that modifies the tangible portions of the finished work. This initiative results is what are known as as-built drawings. If we continue to build on top of old projects, land ownership changes, or for public works, these as-built documents become more valuable.

Surveying Equipments used in Civil Engineering

1.Total Station

It’s important to provide a way to verify the accuracy of measuring and surveying data in the construction, engineering, and many other industries. Total stations, thankfully, offer a solution. These light and portable equipment assist you in collecting data you need to ensure quality design and project completion on time.

surveying in civil engineering

Total station is a type of optical instrument that is widely used in construction, surveying, and civil engineering. It may measure horizontal angles, vertical angles, and distance by observing the slope between itself and a given location. In one precise and stable instrument, a high-quality total station combines surveying, imaging, and high-speed 3D scanning. It combines the most modern field technology with advanced technological functionality to build a device that is dependable and trustworthy in challenging field scenarios while generating accurate analysis and engineering results.


Auto level, also known as a builder’s auto level, a leveling instrument, or an automatic level, is a type of optical instrument used to determine or check points in the same horizontal plane. It is used at surveying in civil engineering with a vertical staff to measure height differences, as well as to transfer, measure, and set heights.


surveying in civil engineering

The level instrument is mounted on a tripod and, depending on it’s type, is either approximately or accurately leveled using footscrews (levelling screws). The user looks through the telescope’s eyepiece and an assistant holds a tape measure or graduated staff vertical at the selected location. During site surveys or building renovation, the instrument and staff are used to collect and/or carry elevations (levels). In certain cases, measurement begins with a baseline with defined height calculated by a previous test, or with an arbitrary point with an estimated height.


GPS, which was originally designed for military use, is now widespread. GPS is used in a variety of applications, including smart phones, in-car navigation, and search and rescue devices. However, there is a wide range of surveying equipment and techniques available.

surveying in civil engineering

GPS was quickly adapted for surveying because it can explicitly provide a location (Latitude, Longitude, and Height), eliminating the need to calculate angles and distances between intermediate points. Survey control could now be built almost anywhere, all that is needed is a clear view of the sky so that the GPS satellites’ signal could be received clearly.

Importance of Surveying

Surveying measurements are used in the planning, construction, and maintenance of all civil engineering projects. A detailed analysis of the target area is normally required to decide its exact boundaries and to ensure the safety of any buildings or other facilities built there. Surveyors also seek to ensure proper infrastructure planning and construction, to protect the local natural environment, and to improve the functionality of planned buildings.

  • It helps in the development of topographical maps that show both natural and man-made features.
  • It helps in the preparation of cadastral maps that indicate the borders of estates, servitudes, and other property rights.
  • It helps in the creation of an engineering map that illustrates the information of engineering works such as bridges, railways, reservoirs, and so on.
  • It helps to create a contour map to evaluate the steepness or gentleness of slopes.
  • It helps in the establishment of horizontal and vertical control point locations during control surveys.
  • It helps in building surveys, surveys necessary for the establishment of points, lines, and grades, and staking out engineering work.

Land Surveyors

The topographic survey is the most common form of surveying in civil engineering. Topographic (land) surveyors concentrate on the characteristics of the land itself. This might include collecting data on the distances and angles between key points, measuring relative elevations, and determining the condition of the soil (rocky, grassy, etc.).
Topographic surveys can provide information on both natural features (such as hills and rivers) and human-made structures (roads, power lines, etc.). Topographic surveys may also be used to create maps by a property surveyor or land surveyor.

In the fields,  land surveyors measure land to decide the boundaries of lands, which helps in determining where houses or roads can be built. Surveyors gather information that is used to build maps. They also help in the resolution of land or property disputes. Surveyors work on a variety of projects, such as land subdivision, detail surveys, setting out, and construction. They are specialists in deciding the size and dimensions of land.

Surveying in civil engineering has been explained here. Hope you enjoyed it!



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