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A Guide to Leveraging Advanced Surveying and Engineering Technologies for Small to Mid-Size Property Development

Anyone working in medium and small property development knows that there are plenty of challenges facing the industry right now. From supply chain shortages to workforce issues caused by the pandemic and other factors, the property building landscape has become rockier than ever. According to Forbes, one of the key concerns for property developers is the speed at which technological innovation is advancing. Many surveying and engineering partners still rely solely on traditional methods, which means that competitors embracing these emerging technologies have an edge. They can get projects completed more efficiently and with higher levels of safety for personnel. 

Engineering Surveys and Services (ES&S) embraces a hybrid approach to surveying and civil engineering, ideal for modern property developers who want to stand out in a competitive market. Let’s take a look at what this means for the medium and small property development industry.

Surveying Technology in the Air

Property development of all sizes requires plots of land that are carefully mapped and surveyed before any planning can begin. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) use airborne vehicles such as various types of drones to fly over a potential construction site, taking numerous images that can be uploaded to a digital cloud.

Drone photogrammetry empowers small property developers to assess their sites as accurately as their larger competitors by using these images to create 3D maps of the site’s physical dimensions and provide static shots of the environment. Because the drones collect digital photos, the data can be transferred to exactly where it’s needed. This allows architects and designers to get to work straight away, planning out a small neighborhood, or even a single property, based on the information gathered by the drones.

UAS technology is far more cost-effective than manual surveying and provides a greater wealth of information. Drones can get under the leaf cover of surrounding trees, protecting the local environment while assessing the ground beneath. Using aircraft to collect data from sites removes the need for repeated site visits by personnel, which also reduces costs. Drones protect your workforce from having to deal with potential hazards such as sinkholes, cliffs, or uneven ground, enhancing the overall safety of your project.

Civil Engineering Technology on the Ground

UAS by itself is not the only surveying solution for small property development. Aerial photogrammetry can be combined with ground control points -- pieces of topographical equipment that mark specific GPS coordinates. Another technology that assists designers and civil engineering teams in their plans is LiDAR. Light detection and ranging, or LiDAR, is a technology that bounces light waves off physical objects to map their dimensions with incredible accuracy. Because it uses light, LiDAR imaging can be captured day or night, making it more efficient than surveying techniques that rely on photographic techniques.

Pre-existing LiDAR “maps” of sites can show old utility lines, abandoned foundations, sewers, or flaws and faults that could halt construction. Combining LiDAR imagery with aerial photogrammetry allows small property development teams to deal with these kinds of issues before the workforce actually gets on site. This reduces costly delays, making the whole project more efficient and potentially more profitable.

Remote and Digital Solutions

Combining these aerial and ground-based technologies with digital design solutions means that so much more of the development process can happen remotely. Building information modeling (BIM) can use the information from aerial photogrammetry, LiDAR, ground points, and even traditional photos to create detailed, virtual models of both the site as it is now and how it will look once the construction is complete. This is ideal for tweaking designs and engaging stakeholders.

Lining up a virtual model of a home, for example, with a LiDAR image of a building plot, could quickly show a conflict between existing utility lines and the planned utility inputs on the house. A designer can swiftly change the plans to take this into account without ever stepping foot on site. Investors might want to see exactly what they’re pumping their money into. Creating digital models based on accurate topographical surveying means the homes, offices, or other buildings can be displayed in their final destination so any stakeholders can enjoy a virtual “fly-through” of the property months before it’s completed.

ES&S launched their unique hybrid proposition, InnoSurv, to allow clients such as small property development teams to get the best of both traditional and cutting-edge surveying methods. ES&S has worked with property developers of all sizes and knows that one solution doesn’t fit every situation.

ES&S advises developers when they should be using:

  • LiDAR
  • Aerial photogrammetry
  • Static images or videos, either captured aerially or on the ground
  • 3D mapping and imaging
  • Virtual models
  • Machine control

By giving clients the tools and technologies they need for every situation, ES&S helps them build their properties faster and more safely, and even reduce the overall cost of construction.
Contact Engineering Surveys and Services for more information on how InnoSurv and can help support your medium or small property development projects.

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