A topographic survey is an important tool used by a variety of professionals, ranging from architects and construction workers to engineers and government agencies. Advance Surveying & Engineering, an established member of the Minnesota Society of Professional Surveyors and one of the leading surveying companies serving St. Paul, is happy to share insights into a topographic survey’s applications and uses.

What is a Topographic Land Survey?

A topographic land survey uses advanced technology (i.e. an electronic EDM instrument paired with a surveying-quality GPS unit) to map the man-made and natural features of a given land parcel. Whereas a typical land survey is concerned with establishing the two-dimensional boundaries within a land parcel, a topographic land survey adds a third dimension by accounting for all of the hills, buildings, trees, creeks, parking lots, etc. within the designated space.

In the past, information gathered from a topographic land survey was transferred to a map in the form of contour lines. These contour lines denoted the elevation of the various features occupying the surveyed land. Nowadays, physical maps have either been replaced by or are supplemented with digital 3D maps – computerized replicas of the land. Instead of contour lines, the actual natural and manmade structures are present in the digital rendering.

Within such a rendering (which is often produced using an engineering software like CAD), architects, engineers, and other interested parties can make alterations to the digital topographic land survey in order to show how the area will look before, during, and after a construction project.

Application and Uses of a Topographic Land Survey

The applications and uses of a topographical land survey are many. Virtually every construction project begins with a topographic land survey – for example, a construction company building a new hospital in Minneapolis would commission a topographic land survey to gain an understanding of the land parcel’s ins and outs (or ups and downs) before breaking ground. Also, government agencies frequently utilize topographic land surveys when evaluating a potential environmental restoration project, or for developing codes and regulations for construction in a certain area.

Another popular use for a topographic land survey is in preparation for land-grading, digging drainage ditches, and creating water retention/run-off areas. For instance, a development company planning a new subdivision in Minnetonka will use a topographic land survey to determine how best to utilize the natural landscape when incorporating features like retention ponds and culverts. In a similar vein, topographic land surveys can be very helpful to architects and engineers commissioned to develop a plot of land that has already been used before, i.e. as a landfill or quarry, or where a building once stood that has since been demolished. A topographic land survey gives these professionals an idea of how the land changed over the course of its prior usage, and offers cues as to how the land can best be used in the future. Also, a topographic land survey can influence the design and layout of a new development, as there may be places within the land parcel where buildings and structures cannot be placed.

For more information on topographic land surveys and their many applications in and around the Twin Cities, contact Advance Surveying & Engineering today.  

December 15, 2017 Advance Surveying