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Giving Thanks for Team Collaboration

by Mike on November 14, 2014

21st century construction sites bring together a lot of people from a variety of technical backgrounds into tight cooperation in a limited space for a short amount of time, and the billions of dollars’ worth of facilities they install can be difficult to track and record for posterity – especially those components which will be buried or otherwise inaccessible after construction.
It can cost a lot to keep it straight – but it can cost many times that amount to lose track and have to survey or research it later. Today’s digital submittals and surveying systems, coupled with modern digital mapping and interactive displays, allow teams to collaborate in the process and provide owners and future operators timely, cost-effective, and accurate asbuilt surveys in a format that serves a variety of needs for the life of the structure.
Many times, projects rely on construction plans with a few mark-ups and photos to provide asbuilt documentation, but owners have found out time and again that these records are inadequate, for a variety of reasons.
One of the biggest complications is the pace and scope of field changes once construction begins. Another is the dependence on relative measurements, versus absolute coordinates. Third, the guts of the construction (and most of the critical facilities and components) are buried underground or covered up by other components and finished surfaces.
Beginning with a specific plan for exactly which points will be data-collected in three dimensions, and which items will simply be verified for compliance with the plans is essential for success in asbuilt surveying. The top criteria for determining what to “shoot for” are:
  • Regulatory compliance
  • The future inaccessibility of the structures
  • Changes from proposed placement
  • The value or business criticality of the structure
It takes foresight and coordination to integrate the asbuilt activities with all the other construction phases and crafts, along with constant communication – and much of that communication is spatial in nature: columns and excavations can be moved to accommodate unforeseen obstructions (sometimes “inherited” from a poorly-documented project built years ago). Crafts and trades may have changes driven by differences in materials delivered, better ideas or methods of construction, or conflicts in design or layout. Change orders can cascade with sometimes unforeseen consequences once begun.

By planning ahead, projects can identify critical structures for asbuilt measurement, and through continuous communication, changes can be anticipated and accounted for. Surveyors can respond in a timely manner, turning from layout to asbuilt measurement on the same visit, and lead-time ahead of backfilling or other obstructive operations can be minimized.
The result is a view of changes as they occur, on a common coordinate system. This technology is much less expensive than the lifetime operational costs of inaccurate records, and the inevitable and expensive forensic research and re-excavation later.