Are you hiring the right surveyor for the job?

August 15, 2017 Stephen Godinich

Stephen Godinich explains how hiring the right surveyor can prevent small-scale issues from becoming big trouble


I’ve been an engineer and a land surveyor for nearly three decades. I am a registered professional land surveyor and have a degree in civil engineering. I take my job very seriously, and I expect the same of those on our team. Experience has taught me that dedication to craft is important, and I’ll tell you why.


staff member on-site survey


There’s a huge difference in hiring a professional surveyor and hiring a surveyor just to get the work done. A while ago, a client worked for a restaurant franchise and called me after things had gone horribly wrong with his surveyor. He hired, in his own words, “some local surveyor,” to stake out the building for a new restaurant location. The surveyor did the work, and the project proceeded forward.

That’s when the problems arose. Turns out, the surveyor wasn’t paying attention to produce a tight boundary. During construction, a conflict with underground utilities was discovered, and big problems ensued. It meant stalled construction, lost time in the field, and it was costing my friend a lot of money. It was a small-scale issue—but in surveying, a small miscalculation can multiply quickly. If your surveyor doesn’t understand the difference between commercial and private work, you may find yourself in trouble.


People out in the field surveying a site


Many surveying companies perform surveys for single-family homes. This is NOT the firm you want to hire to do your commercial site development boundary surveys. The two markets simply don’t translate, and even though a single-family surveying firm may be cheaper and have loads of experience in their field, consider the following implications:

  1. Many variables and complexities. The details on a commercial project site can make or break the project, when considering boundary, contours, grading, earthwork, right of way, and utilities.
  2. The importance of square footage. When working on commercial development projects, every square foot counts—literally.
  3. Utility conflicts—discovered after the fact. Construction projects in Houston are notorious for having utility conflicts after construction starts because they aren’t documented on historical plan sets. It’s important that your professional be aware of the history of their local community and then be able to do the necessary legwork to avoid this pitfall.
  4. Ability to produce a cohesive survey document. A while ago I worked with a consultant who had a Ph.D. in surveying. The only problem? He didn’t have enough real-world experience and therefore couldn’t produce a boundary survey acceptable to acquire the property or design new facilities needed to develop the site. Since then, I make sure my team has the right mix of experience AND education.

When we are engaged to survey high-dollar projects, the implications of a survey “gone wrong” can be serious and can negatively impact the entire team. That’s why it’s important to hire the proper land surveyor for any development project—one with both the proper experience and education.

About the Author

Stephen Godinich

Stephen Godinich has more than 25 years of experience and is the director of surveying in Stantec’s Houston office.

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