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What is an Architectural Survey?

By December 7, 2018News

When we take on a project the first thing we’ll do is carry out an architectural survey. But what does that entail? Here Joe Hubbard describes what is involved when we survey your property.

What is an architectural survey?

An architectural survey is used to accurately measure the position of all structural and aesthetic features of a property, as well as surrounding boundaries, topology, trees and site drainage. We use an architectural survey as the starting point for our work on a project.

Briefing in the office

On the day of the survey, we will be briefed in the office by whoever is managing the project, usually one of the directors. The brief will include details on the location of the building/plot; the areas of the site to be measured and in how much detail, and where applicable, the requirements of the project.

For example, if a client requires an extension to the rear of the property, we will only measure the affected parts of the building and any details needed for the scheme. This will ultimately save the client unnecessary expense.

Working on-site

When surveying we use a laser measure, which provides accurate millimetre readings over long distances and is generally quicker than using a tape measure. We do however use tape measures for smaller measurements, and these are sometimes more reliable if there are any obstructions on or close to the line of the laser, which can distort the readings. We also use a 5m long staff which we photograph along the exterior of the property (see below). This is particularly useful for gaining height information for high-level details such as the eaves and the ridge height of roofs or first-floor windows.

what happens during an architectural survey
measuring using a 5m staff on an architectural survey

Measuring inside the building

We measure the perimeter of each room, picking up details such as ceiling heights, window heights, wall thicknesses, sloped ceilings, beams and fireplaces. We also take diagonal measurements where possible to help with the process of drawing up the rooms. The diagonal readings triangulate with our perimeter measurements to ensure accuracy. Diagonal measurements are also crucial for picking up the angles of walls which cannot typically be measured.

We also measure externally around the perimeter of the building(s) and, if required, measure the extent of the site including boundaries, terrace areas or trees. We also confirm the location of drainage by lifting manhole covers. If the site drawings are required in more detail, we will conduct a topographical survey with more specialised equipment, which gives a better understanding of the site around the building(s). Topographical surveys are particularly useful on sites with a lot of level changes or steeply sloped areas.

We take photographs throughout the surveyed area to aid the drawing up of existing details, as photos can contain more information. Pictures are especially useful for unusual features and general aspects of the building that cannot be measured accurately. We also take photographs outside and, where possible, of adjoining properties, to gauge how any proposal could affect the surrounding areas or neighbours.

Post-survey

Once we have completed the survey, we take our measurements back to the office. We produce a set of existing details drawn in AutoCAD and issue these to the client. This process usually takes 2-3 weeks, depending on the size of the survey. These existing detail drawings are essential in developing the project and are used when creating sketch proposals and, where applicable, detailed planning proposals and working drawings.