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Sometimes GIS Really Does Mean “Get It Surveyed”

by Mike on April 16, 2015

Most large construction projects start with a promise to collect accurate as-built survey information, so that future owners and maintainers of the infrastructure can get full and economic use of the facilities far into the future. In actuality, that almost never happens as well as it should. Changes are unrecorded, locations are not accurately captured with 3D coordinates, and the information itself is often delivered as mark-ups of construction plans rather than an updated digital model.
 
We can improve that starting today, with just a dose of planning and proactivity. With the technology described below, it gets even easier than that. It’s all about making our intentions known. Ensuring the integrity of as-built records while keeping a cap on costs begin by selecting the most important points to be as-built specifically; and then focus the attention and resources to make that data collection happen.
 
We’ve been getting pretty sophisticated in adapting technology to help us track utilities and facilities on evermore complex and ever-changing industrial, corporate, and college campuses. These days we use traditional “analog” surveying, digital data collection (sometimes in CAD format), GPS, digital photography, and web-based interactive mapping to perform as-built documentation, and to share it on a “live”, 24-7 basis with all team members who need to collaborate to deliver and maintain infrastructure, with little to no interruption of services, production, and occupation.
 
Too often it is rather disingenuously determined that “everything” will be as-built. This makes perfection the enemy of the possible: there is almost never the budget or even justification for actually measuring and recording every potential point or position. Consequently, “everything” gets a very low-quality effort of measurement and recording. It is much more efficient and worthwhile to get accurate survey coordinates on just the key points that will “tie down” all the subordinate details. 
 
Selection of the points should be based on the strict criteria of value and criticality, on the importance of the information, and on the difficulty of access in the post-construction stage of the facility lifecycle. It is also essential to collect some sort of data on any deviation from plan, but an overall view of the difference is probably just as important as a precise three-dimensional coordinate.
 
Laser scanning can work wonders for such data, if performed at the right moment in time.
 
Be proactive! Begin with the End in Mind!
 
As an owner, when you’re paying for both, it just makes sense. As a GISP, it is essential to coordinate and collaborate with the data inputs and outputs generated at all points along the infrastructure lifecycle – planning, design, construction, commission, production, maintenance, decommission, and demolition.  As a contractor / architect / surveyor / facility operator / manager, a comprehensive geographic database with a common workflow interface can help increase revenue, lower costs, and mitigate risk.