Surveying plays a key role in the development of our physical environment. We need accurate surveys and maps to build roads, houses, schools, plus to locate our natural resources and our boundaries, locally or nationally. While we seldom see surveyors in the field, we all directly experience the effects of their work on a daily basis.
Surveying is said by some to be the oldest profession in the world. This module is an introduction to the basic types of surveys that are carried across Canada on a daily basis. Hopefully, the next time you see a surveyor laying out houses or directing work crews on a construction site, you'll have an idea of what they are doing - and no, they are not going to take your picture!
What Is It?
Surveying is the art and science of measuring the surface of the earth and its features. Surveying determines the 'spatial location' of points or establishes pre-determined points on or near the surface of the earth. In short, we want to know where existing objects or features are, and we need to be able to plan new features such as parks or build new structures such as roads or buildings exactly where we want them placed. To do this we carry out a survey.
There are many different technologies used in surveying and many different types of surveys, but regardless of how we position features, the basics remain the same.
As mentioned, there are many different types of surveys. Generally speaking, surveys will either take into account the true shape of the earth (Geodetic surveys) or treat the earth as a flat surface (Plane surveys). Additionally, surveys are conducted for the purpose of positioning features on the ground (Horizontal surveys), determining the elevation or heights of features (Vertical surveys) or a combination of both. These classifications are described in the next two sections.