Topographic surveys play a critical role in the land development process. But what exactly does a topographic survey include?
The maps outline a plot’s key details, including terrain, elevation changes, and existing property features. A licensed land surveyor uses specialized technology to scope out a property’s natural and manmade elements and create a detailed map for developers and designers.
What Are Topographic Surveys?
Topographic surveys were initially created to display elevation levels and landforms that traditional maps and land surveys did not include.
When developing a topo report, a land surveyor gathers data about a property’s artificial structures, natural features, and terrain. The finished report includes all this information, making it easier for architects, civil engineers, and builders to visualize and develop the parcel of land.
In addition to development, professionals in the geology, forestry, and petroleum industries frequently rely on topographic maps to analyze specific terrain areas. Federal, state, and local government municipalities also use topographic reports when creating or enforcing zoning regulations.
What a Professional Topographic Survey Includes
Similar to a boundary survey, a topographic survey report displays a parcel’s property lines. But topo surveys also include more details about the plot of land, including outlines of the area’s surface features, terrain, and elevation. Therefore, the finalized reports map out a property’s contour lines, utilities, and natural attributes.
Contour lines are the main characteristics of a topographic map. A land surveyor collects data about the property, then uses the information to create a series of lines.
A contour line demonstrates changes in elevation on the land, allowing users to understand the property’s terrain better. The lines are created closer or far apart from one another to show peaks, valleys, and summits on the land.
A topography report may include a variety of different contour lines, including:
- Hill contours: A land surveyor will draw a circle to represent the peak of the hill. Then, they will create rings around the circle, spreading them out to display the base of the hill.
- Steep slopes: The contour lines are drawn close together to illustrate a steep incline or decline on the property.
- Gentle slopes: Surveyors space contour lines further apart from one other to signify gentle slopes.
While topographic surveys focus on contour lines, they also outline all manufactured utilities located throughout a parcel of land. Surveyors denote the structures using topographic map symbols.
The utilities included in a topographic report are:
- Houses and sheds
- Railway lines
- Roads and highways
- Retaining walls
- Utility poles
In addition, a land surveyor may cross-reference existing plans to identify any underground utilities, such as electrical boxes, gas lines, and plumbing systems.
Natural Physical Attributes
Your topographic survey will also display the types of vegetation throughout a parcel of land. It outlines any natural structures included in the property, such as bodies of water, boulders, and trees. The finalized topographic report will show the height, depth, size, and location of all the property’s natural features.
Knowing the type of terrain on a site allows civil engineers and architects to develop well-suited design plans for the property. Without understanding the landscape, builders could run into severe problems that delay or prevent new construction.
How Topographic Surveys Are Conducted
Land surveyors use specialized instruments to create detailed topographic maps. The equipment includes global positioning systems (GPS) and electronic distance measurement (EDM) total station theodolite (TST) devices.
The equipment allows the surveyors to gather information about the geographical area. To do this, land surveyors must travel to the property to conduct fieldwork. Once all the data is collected, they can process the information to create the final survey. A finalized topographic survey creates a detailed map outlining terrain, elevation, and property structures.
The total length of time it takes to produce a professional topo survey depends on how complex the terrain is and the total acreage of the property. Larger parcels with varying elevations and terrain levels can take significantly longer to survey than small plots with minimal height or terrain changes.
Uses of Topographic Surveys
You may need a topographic survey when making property improvements or before starting architectural projects on your parcel of land. They allow construction professionals to get familiar with your property and create a design that accommodates elevation or landscape changes.
You may also need a topographic survey to:
- Comply with local zoning regulations when applying for a construction permit
- Install draining and plumbing systems
- Develop land for a different purpose than what was originally intended
Overall, professionals seek out these geographic maps to help them develop with land properly. The more familiar with the terrain, the easier it is to implement design plans and keep construction projects on schedule and within the necessary budget.
Let Our Professional Land Surveyors Perform Your Topo Survey
If you need a professional topographic survey in New York, the team at Scalice Land Surveying can help. Our land surveyors are knowledgeable experts who use state-of-the-art technology to produce accurate and detailed topographic maps. Contact us now to learn more about our topographic mapping services.