Staking Your Territory
Most wheelwrights went the way of history once the car was commonplace. Today, many bookstores are closing thanks to eBooks and wireless readers. Could surveyors be losing their importance (and work) with the upswing in the use of machine control?
Not if they know how to capture the new opportunities, says Ryan Murguia, Construction DTM Services for Klingner & Associates of Burlington, Iowa. Work for surveyors, while changing, is certainly not disappearing. The 95-person architecture, engineering and surveying services firm is keeping Murguia quite busy preparing 3D modeling for machine control for their own design projects and also for construction and design firms all around their region. “We have a lot of construction companies hiring us to produce 3D models from the plans they’ve received,” Murguia says.
But field opportunities are still there and more important than ever. “The opportunity is out there for surveyors to market themselves as specialized construction staking experts because the surveyor who sets the control points can make or break the job,” Murguia says. “[With machine control] everything done in the office with the design is useless without having accurate control points set. It doesn’t matter what your equipment is or how good the design.”
Among the firm’s many other projects, Klingner & Associates is currently working on the design and repair of levees breached and destroyed in the record-breaking 2008 Mississippi floods in Iowa. Nearly a year-long project for the company, the Iowa River Flint Creek Levee District 16 (Main Stem) in Kingston, Iowa, covers a 40-mile stretch of the river.
After reviewing the existing conditions of the levees, the design team at Klingner and the district mutually decided to require GPS machine control for the projects due to the remote area and length of the projects, with Murguia providing the 3D models for the contractor’s use. With spring flooding a very high concern, the district was looking for ways to shorten the project duration. GPS machine control met that need, as well.
Carlson software solutions are being used for both the design work and for the 3D modeling plans for machine control. “The uniform levee maintenance involves uniform grading and reshaping and the relocation of material in order to conform to USACE’s design parameters and to meet current FEMA levee certification requirements,” Murguia says. “We’re putting in berms for future flood fighting, stockpiling sand, bringing the levees back to original design standards. Machine control technology is especially well suited for long, linear projects such as this one.”
Murguia says the firm handles the topography in the field and the design work in the office. “We use Carlson for the production of the paper plans, for the 3D machine control files and for the checks at the very end of the projects,” he says. “The software is easy and intuitive. We often end up working with Topcon, Trimble and Leica machine control, and Carlson works with all of them.”
While Murguia notes that each project he works on is unique and challenging, he says that the hardest part is knowing what each client wants. “[For] most job sites, I end up doing the model at least twice,” he says, mostly because of changes the designer, engineering firm or contractor makes. For a recent project, an armory for which Klingner is not the designer but is doing the modeling, Murguia says that the engineers have changed the design three times. “This means we have to go back in and rework the modeling to accommodate the design changes. It’s intense work with a lot of checks and balances,” he adds, “but there’s a lot of demand out there.”
“There’s still a need for staking on construction sites, but the use of machine control is growing. Many contractors are making the decision that they don’t want to pay outside surveyors, and construction surveyors are picking up the workload,” adds Ward, who notes that his firm has seen a marked increase over the last four to six months of civil engineering and surveying companies wanting to learn about data prep and 3D modeling.
“Surveyors can still get into 3D modeling,” he says. “The opportunities are there.”
Editor's note: For details on how to obtain a complete copy of the 2011 Machine Control Study, visit www.siteprepmag.com.