4 Sep 2019

What you need to know when ordering a topographic Survey?

You need to order a topographic survey for your project, what are the key things that you need to know when asking about spec and delivery options?

First of all you may want to check out information provided by organisations like The Survey Association or RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) who provide professional guidance on these subjects to clients and surveyors. These have is extremely comprehensive guidance designed to assist people who are connected with the procurement of surveys. 

After 40 years of working in the survey industry, the team here at Warner Surveys put our heads together and came up with what we think are some of the most important things to think about when ordering a survey: 

1)      Specification: What do you actually need? And one of the most important questions, what is the survey actually for?

So, you’ve gone online to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors website and downloaded their guidelines. These come with really handy check lists where you can specify what you need, what level of detail you want and which items you need covered etc. However a couple of things you need to note here.

 Levels of detail are related to the stated scale of the drawing. So the bigger the scale, the more detail.

 For example:

1:200, may be considered as ‘standard’, a 1:100 (or 1:50) may be required in conjunction with an MBS, 1:500 may be good for large estate / park / space planning. But note, the bigger scale, the more detail is needed, the more time, the more cost, the higher ‘accuracy’. The more detail you need, the more time the survey will take, so it will end up costing you more, so be sure to just specify what you need.

The other point here is, do not print the checklist, tick everything and send it through. That’s likely a lot more detail than you need, so you are creating unnecessary cost. We really push for communication, so if in doubt chat to your survey provider. We usually call our client that has sent in the spec and talk through what the survey is for and discuss what specification is needed and why. This gives us a greater understanding of the job, providing accurate quoting, and keeps everyone happy. So if you aren’t sure what you need, get in touch with your survey provider and have a chat with them.

2)      Format: What format do you need the deliverables to be in? Here we are talking 2D drawing, 3D model, 3D revit model, possibly you need some areas as a point cloud etc. Make sure when dealing with you survey provider that you ask for the format you need, or if you aren’t sure what sort of deliverable would be best, have a chat with them and discuss options.

3)      Timescale: Make sure when talking to your survey provider you find out how long will it take and when will the survey start, as well as when the deliverables will be issued.

4)      How: Don’t worry about specifying how the survey is carried out. Focus more on what you need out of it. You may have seen a laser scanner so you request a laser scan survey, but that might not be the best way of capturing the data, possibly its better using drone to capture the data, maybe it’s a simple survey that just needs some total survey shots taken. Focus on what information you need and what deliverable you need at the end of it all instead, let the survey provider make recommendations based on this.

5)      Communication: Always talk to the survey providers, survey can be complicated, there can be a lot of factors to take into account, always have a quick chat with them and it will help you get exactly what you need and no doubt the most cost effective survey tailored to the requirements as well.

6)      Cost: Cheapest does not always mean best, there’s a lot of great survey providers out there, find the one that works best with you and work with them to get what you need.


Warner Surveys are a leading land and engineering surveyors with 40 years of delivery behind us.

For more information you can get in touch with Operations Director, Clif Webb