In another era, today's surveyors may have been cartographers or what the ancient Egyptians called 'rope stretchers'. Yes — land, building, and construction surveying as a profession have been around since 1400 B.C.E. At that time, ancient civilisations used ropes, resin, and beeswax to accurately measure land for real estate, taxation, and, of course, building purposes. Today, surveying is no less essential, but it has evolved in sophistication, methods, and equipment.
Once surveying services became an official profession in the 1800s, it was only a matter of time before technologies like GPS and GIS (geographic information system) software, laser scanners, and terrestrial scanners would come along and enhance the accuracy of land surveying. But what is a surveyor, what are they responsible for, and how much does a survey cost? These questions — and more — are what this surveyor rates guide answers, so read on to learn more about surveying services in Australia.
What is a surveyor?
A surveyor is a person who uses complex knowledge in geodesy, mathematics, physics, engineering, and geometry to measure and plot three-dimensional points, distances, and the angles between these. These measurements help create a reliable and highly accurate map of the land being 'surveyed'. Surveyors rely on theodolites, a tool first developed all the way back in 1571 to record measurements between horizontal and vertical angles between discrete points. These 'boundary lines' are used in real estate and construction development to record a piece of land's exact area or square footage. If you've ever driven by a road and seen someone wearing an orange or yellow construction vest, pointing an odd camera-type object on a tripod, you were probably looking at a theodolite.
What does a surveyor do?
Surveyors work with theodolites as well as field equipment like GPS and terrestrial and aerial scanners to map the boundaries, terrain, and area of a piece of land. They need highly technical training in and knowledge of software like AutoCAD for drafting plans or other types of geospatial software that will help them measure and map the land. Land surveying tasks include:
- Researching and developing measurement systems and land information systems
- Planning and designing land subdivisions, especially those that require new boundaries
- Identifying residential and rural boundaries
- Negotiating land planning and measurement details with local governments and authorities
- Advising and collaborating with architects, engineers, and environmental specialists who need information about an area's topographical or other spatial details
- Compiling and evaluating data and writing reports about survey measurements and land use
- Using surveying details to prepare site plans for land ownership matters
According to the Australian Government's Job Outlook tool, surveyors are on par with spatial scientists, as their technical skills and vocational training allow them to 'plan, direct, and conduct research to determine, plan, and position tracts land, natural and constructed features, coastlines, marine floors and underground works, and manage related information systems'. This is why land survey costs in Australia differ so widely, and they entirely depend on the expertise and education of the surveyor themselves.
What factors affect surveying costs?
As a project, surveyor costs include more than simply the per-hour rate of a surveying professional. It also takes into account a variety of other factors that impact the successful execution of the project. These include:
- Survey type — There are several different types of surveying (examined below). Each type has its own time estimate, site needs, and equipment requirements.
- Land size — Naturally, the larger the size of a property, the longer it will take for a surveyor to measure and map out. This increases surveyor costs.
- Site location — The site's location will influence how far a surveyor will need to travel to get there. Because you're hiring for surveying services, a professional can't survey two pieces of land at once. That's why they often account for travel costs like fuel within surveyor costs.
- Research time — Often, 'trickier' terrain — especially that which sits underground, or on marine floors, for example — requires extra research time. These environments may also produce conditions in which it's hard to take photographic evidence. In cases like these, land survey costs may include a professional conducting research beforehand to decide how to capture images and data about non-traditional land.
- Season — Like non-traditional or inaccessible terrain, seasons affect surveyor costs. Not only is it a matter of demand — an 'off-season', for example, having less demand, which means you can pay less — but it's also a matter of safety. If the season's climate exposes surveyors to extreme weather conditions, their work may be more challenging to complete safely or promptly.
What are the different types of surveying in civil engineering?
When trying to estimate surveyor costs, you'll need to understand the varieties of surveying services available. For example, land surveyors are different from building surveyors in that land surveying services measure and map the spatial layout of a site that will be developed.
However, building surveyors will assess buildings and handle the building control process. They need to assess plans and ensure they comply with the Building Code of Australia. Let's take a look at some of the other types of surveying services in civil engineering and how much a survey costs, based on what you hire out for:
- Boundary surveys — These surveying services measure and map out residential and rural boundaries. The surveyor costs are approximately $155/hour.
- Construction surveying services — Construction surveying involves examining topography, terrain data, and property lines. It might also establish new boundaries. A commercial construction survey costs an average of $1,000 to $1,500.
- Topographic surveys — These surveying services involve surveyors who review the surface features of a property and create maps or diagrams that accurately portray these natural features and include details about elevations. Many local and municipal governments rely on these maps to zone areas for commercial, residential, and public use. These designs will also help architects and engineers create accurate plans for structures based on the environmental conditions drawn by the land surveyor. The surveyor cost for this type of service runs between $400 to $10,000 for areas smaller than 900 square metres.
- Site planning surveys — Combining boundary and topographic surveys, site planning surveying services are used specifically to develop land for properties. Survey costs for this type of surveying can range from $365 to $500.
- Subdivision surveys — Surveyors who divide a plot of land into smaller parcels perform subdivision surveys. Depending on the site's size, this costs between $2,000 to $10,000.
- Geological survey — Geological surveys focus on ensuring that the buildings on a piece of land are well-constructed. The survey cost for this is an average of $450.
How to hire a surveyor in Australia?
When you're ready to hire a surveyor, there's a simple process to finding and working with the right professionals. Follow these steps to make sure the surveying services you're relying on are worth the surveyor costs you'll be paying:
- Begin a local search online ( start with iseekplant for the best results and a curated list of the best service providers in your area).
- Request quotes and compare these rates against the services provided.
- Make sure to ask for previous customer reviews (iseekplant gives you the easy option of viewing testimonials right away).
- Ask the land surveyors you're vetting for their licences.
- Confirm these licences with the state's licensing board that you're in. If they all check out, you've got your pick of surveyors to work with!