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Survey 101 – What are the types of surveys?

ALTA/ACSM SURVEY: a surveying standard jointly proposed by the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping that incorporates elements of the boundary survey, mortgage survey, and topographic survey. ALTA/ACSM surveys, frequently shortened to ALTA surveys, are often required for real estate transactions.

AS-BUILT SURVEY: a survey conducted after a construction project is completed, confirming that the structures, utilities, and roadways proposed were built in the proper locations authorized in the Plot Plan or Site Plan.

BOUNDARY SURVEY: a survey to establish the boundaries of a parcel using its legal description, which typically involves the setting or restoration of monuments or markers at the corners or along the lines of the parcel, often in the form of iron rods, pipes, or concrete monuments in the ground, or nails set in concrete or asphalt. A drawing is then prepared from the field data to provide a representation of the parcel surveyed.

CONSTRUCTION LAYOUT SURVEYING: the process of establishing and marking the position and detailed layout of new structures such as roads or buildings for subsequent construction.

ELEVATION CERTIFICATE: a survey done when a parcel of land is located within a flood hazard area as shown on the FEMA maps. Elevations are determined for the finished floor, garage, accessory structures, and adjacent building grades. This information is then put on a flood elevation certificate to determine the insurance coverage needed, as determined by an insurance agent.

ENGINEERING SURVEYS: those surveys associated with the engineering design (topographic, layout, and as-built), often requiring geodetic computations beyond normal civil engineering practice.

FOUNDATION SURVEY: a survey done to collect the positional data on a foundation that has been poured and is cured. This is done to ensure that the foundation was constructed in the location authorized in the Plot Plan, Site Plan, or Subdivision Plan. When the location of the finished foundation is checked and approved, the building of the remainder of the structure can commence. This should not be confused with an As-Built Survey, which is not to be done until all work on the site is completed.

HYDROGRAPHIC SURVEY: a survey conducted with the purpose of mapping the coastline and seabed for navigation, engineering, or resource management purposes. Products of such surveys are nautical charts.

MORTGAGE SURVEY: a simple survey that generally determines land boundaries and building locations. Mortgage surveys are required by title companies and lending institutions when they provide financing to show that there are no structures encroaching on the property and that the position of structures is generally within zoning and building code requirements.

PLOT PLAN OR SITE PLAN: a proposal plan for a construction site that includes all existing and proposed conditions on a given site. The existing and proposed conditions always include structures, utilities, roadways, topography, and wetlands delineation. The plan might also, but does not always, include hydrology, drainage flows, and flood zone determined from (FEMA) Federal Flood Insurance Reference Maps.

SUBDIVISION PLAT: a plot or map based on a survey of a parcel of land. Boundary lines are drawn inside the larger parcel to indicate the creation of new lot/parcel lines, retention ponds, and roads.

TOPOGRAPHIC SURVEY: a survey that measures the elevation of points on a particular piece of land and presents them as contour lines on a plot.

WETLANDS DELINEATION & LOCATION SURVEY: a survey that is completed when an authorized biologist or scientist has marked the wetlands. The boundary of the wetlands is determined by observing the soil colors, vegetation, erosion patterns or scour marks, hydrology, and morphology. Typically colored flags are then placed in key locations to denote the boundary of the wetlands. A survey is done to collect the data on the locations of the placed flags, and a plan is drawn to reference the boundary of the wetlands against the boundary of the surrounding plots or parcels of land and the construction work proposed within.