September 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm #160674
There’s also the question, if I’m out surveying a property for two days. What things am I neglecting to do at the office? Is there something better I could be doing with my time? I have to confess that when I get really busy with design and field work, the first thing to get prioritized out of my schedule is making cold calls. For me that’s dangerous considering every job I’ve landed in the last three years has come directly or indirectly from cold calls.September 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm #160673
I’m definitely not surveying lot lines! I’m doing the same thing that you described above. This is mostly for adding to or altering existing landscapes. Usually, that is a response to the house changing hands, an addition, or some alteration and the survey was done beforehand and with minimal detail for the initial project – usually just a CPP with house and lot line, sometimes basic elements such as edge of grass, driveway, and edge of street pavement, but not much more than that. People seem much more prone to calling us in at the last minute with these types of projects.
The people doing new construction seem to be much more on the ball at getting us involved early. Mostly because we have so many freshwater and coastal wetlands resources and they need a landscape plan to get through the permitting. This type of site requires detailed surveying right away and because it is all new we are not trying to landscape in between and around things, so the level of detail is not as much anyway.
The irony is that we get more detailed surveys on the sites that are wide open for manipulation and we get very little on the ones where we need to work around things.September 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm #160672
The only project where I’ve spent more than a couple of hours “surveying” is a condo re-do, but it is absolutely necessary to measure such a project personally on-site in order to develop the familiarity of the site. Retro-fit landscapes are tough.
Typically, I spend an hour or two on a re-do residential. I have a good system and a good laser which easilly tripled my speed when I started using one five years ago (and that was a not so good laser).September 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm #160671
It is only wasted time if you are not charging for it. If I did not budget it in and relied on what I got from a survey crew on a residential, I’d see it as wasted time. I know that I’m going to be filling in some details no matter what on an existing residential. If it is a complex site and there is little detail with what I’m starting with, it will have a survey crew back on site whether it is the one that did the original survey or the guys that I work with (I have 2 survey crews at my finger tips three days a week in the engineering office). If I can shoot a laser to two corners of the house from five trees and the end of a walway in twenty minutes while I’m walking the site, I surely won’t bother with them.
I get the feeling that you guys are thinking that I start from scratch and piece together a bunch of half-assed representations of the site. I assure you that is not the case. I have a hard time believing that you all get surveys that accurately depict every last thing thing that you need each and every time unless you are on site with the crew to see it through.
I start with a CAD file from a surveyor and go from there unless it is a simple site that does not have a CAD file available in which case I calc’ the lot lines from the subdivision plan and trace the house in from a scanned blueprint. If I brought in a survey crew for a fresh survey every time I’d be priced out of about 1/3 of my work. Instead, I’m pocketing the extra survey money by doing what I do.September 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm #160670Jason T. RadiceParticipant
I take copious amounts of photos on site. I do that profesionaly as well for large events on public grounds. Not pretty shots…functional shots. Always with some kind of reference point or measurement. That way, I have a record of what is there and I can interpolate data if need to or fill in the blanks from the photo. You can use bricks to measure from, or lay down a tape with big numbers. You have to have a decent camera and shoot at the best resolution. It also helps to have a wide angle, something a point and shoot can’t do.
Depending on the size of the site, I may actually take notes on the photos I am taking, just to remember locations, angles, and reference points for before/after shots. I usually only get budegeted one pre-design site visit, so I have to make the most of it.September 5, 2011 at 3:30 am #160669
O.k. now I understand. I’ve had some residential properties that it takes a licensed surveyor two days to shoot. They’re usually properties with a lot of trees over 6” caliper.
It takes me about an hour or two to measure and get critical spot elevations on a typical residential project as well.
Honestly Andrew I’m not poo-pooing what you’re doing, I’m actually paying close attention to what you’re saying. Because if I could shave that hour or two measuring and shoot spots down to a half hour or so, I would be interested in purchasing some of those fancy thingama-bobs you’re talking about. I’d have no problem using it for small projects. But I would also make it clear that the homeowner is responsible for having the boundary located before any construction.September 5, 2011 at 3:41 am #160668
I do pretty well with getting all the information I need, providing I don’t get rushed and I go about it systematically. Like Jason, I can usually piece the puzzle together well enough between photos and lots of field notes.September 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm #160667
This has been a very interesting thread to me even though I got zero feedback on the original information that I sought.
First, I am stunned that so many spend so little time on the site. I can understand that on new construction, but not on revitalization work. I’m not being judgemental on that, just very, very, surprised by it. One of the biggest benefits of doing some hands on measuring is the level of observation and degree of familiarity you are inherently gaining of the site as you do this. You can recall details of the site, even months later at a hearing or presentation, that you simply never take in from a quick walk through. I had no idea so many are doing drive-by site analysis.
Second, as someone who has worked five years in one survey/engineering firm and five more in another, I’m amazed at the level of detail that so many expect, assume, or can’t make due without in a survey (in other words, if the survey has been done and did not locate all that you need on the plan, you can’t supplement it yourself in most cases?). Again, not necessarilly judgemental on that, but very, very, surprised by it.
Sure, I’d get the survey crew to locate everything and everything whenever possible, but I’m not going to jeopardize my prospect and blow up the cost of a plan over a few quick and easy measurements that I can take while I’m analyzing the site. I used to do it with tapes and still would if better methods were not available to me. Now I do it with a laser that is so fast and accurate when tied to items such as building corners that were previously located in the survey. I’m just looking to see if the next level of technology could be that much faster and offer more data as a bonus.
Third, some seem to think I’m taking great risk measuring while others are eyeballing locations from photos. I take a ton of photos as well and do make judgements on locations of soft non-critical elements based upon those from time to time as well. I’m just very surprised that I seem to be getting knocked for measuring as if it is unprofessional and risky while it seems to be OK to estimate from photos.
We are in a diverse field with lots of ways of doing things and lots of different ranges of services to offer and clients to satisfy. Most of my residential plans are on properties in the seven figure range while some are closer to $300k. The fact is that no matter if someone has a ton of money or not, most tend not to want to disperse it wastefully. I’m getting work over others because I’m known for providing accurate plans that can be built as shown, can be permitted through conservation, and I take care to make the scope of work only what is necessary to get the job done well. In other words, all these things that I do make me valued and the work keeps coming in.
My business plan is not to try to do what everyone else does and be one more LA competing against all the other LAs using the same play book. I used my own playbook that was built simply because of the limitations that I had while working full time somewhere else. What I discovered is that this is incredibly well received and the referrals continue to increase so much that I’m going to take it full time.
You get nothing if you don’t sell the job. You get lost in the crowd if you do what everyone else is doing not only in design, but in how you do business. I can’t compete with the Falmouth, Boston, & Cambridge crowd at their game using their business models, so I offer a different means to the end. Plenty of people value what the others offer more than what I offer, but when they value what I offer they don’t have a lot of others to choose from. Just something to think about.September 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm #160666
“…I seem to be getting knocked for measuring as if it is unprofessional and risky while it seems to be OK to estimate from photos.”
Let me make it clear I would never “guestimate” a critical dimension, if I have to drive an hour to a site to get one spot elevation, I’ll do it. But on the other hand I won’t make that drive if I want to locate a shrub in an area that I’m not doing any hardscape work in if I have the right photo angles and scale elements. Besides it doesn’t matter if that shrub location is off one or two feet in any direction.
I’ve used lasers in the past, but I had issues on bright sunny days. That was the past when I was working for someone else, but presently I’m self-employed and I’m all ears to learn about how you made it work for you. For the last five years or so, I have been having problems with Surveyors on small projects. As a designer the more information I can have about the site when I need it the better. You could possibly have the solution to one of my biggest problems.
Also, your business model is not that unique. I would say a decent number of the one man outfits here in metroNYC are doing the same thing, its pretty much how I’ve been operating the last three years full time. I had no other choice but to cast a broad net, sell jobs and deliver easy to read and accurate drawings along with tight specification manuals on time. That’s the only way us small guys are going to eat around here.
I must have missed where someone referred to you as being unprofessional. You probably get more respect than anyone in the Lounge. Relax dude, take some time off. You seem like you’re all wound up. If business is good and you’ve been grinding, you’ve earned a break.September 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm #160665mark fosterParticipant
“First, I am stunned that so many spend so little time on the site”.
One of my pet peeves, This is a major reason I am in D/B.
Getting paid to implement the project allows me to be paid to spend the time to get to know the site intimately– over large periods of time and in all kinds of weather conditions–which I was never able to achieve through the traditional way.
No blame here, because most traditional la’s get paid by the plan, and I definitely experienced the time crunch when I worked that way. Perhaps I am just a lazy designer–but I require this prolonged interaction with site, materials and client. For me, it makes the final outcome better.
Sorry this is a bit off topic. Andrew please update your decision. We can all use info on procuring site data more quickly and accurately.September 5, 2011 at 6:45 pm #160664
Perhaps I read more into some responses than what was actually intended. Sorry about that.
Craig, the little hand held lasers are getting much better and if you can get a pair of those red colored laser glasses (a pair came with my laser beacon level) they make all the difference in the world. I used to use a FatMax laser that I got for about $90 from Home Depot 5 years ago. This spring I saw a Bosch DLR165k for around $130 while I was shopping for a laser beacon. I asked to try it outside on a very bright day. It was obvious to me right away that it worked far better than the FatMax. I’m finding that I can get any shot as long as I can hold the target. I don’t usually take shots from over 100′, but when I have with the Bosch, it came through. I’d be lucky to get 80% of the shots that I wanted to take over 50′ away with the FatMax and forget it if it was bright and it also did not perform well on damp surfaces.
The biggest problem that I have with the little hand helds is holding them steady on target as I’m pressing the button. I find it helps to press it against my forehead to steady it when necessary.
I use a friends Leica (~$500) sometimes (range 600′). It has a little window with a crosshair that you look down at. I find it really awkward to use the sighting window and don’t think I’d get more out of it than the Bosch.
I just sent an inquery about the Truepulse on Friday, so no one has gotten back to me over the holiday weekend. I’d like to hear about it from people other than their sales staff and would like to see a demo. I’ll keep you all posted.September 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm #160663Jason T. RadiceParticipant
I wonder if the Leica will transfer via bluetooth over into the AutoCAD iPhone/iPad and Android Apps. Talk about convenient!!September 6, 2011 at 1:11 am #160662
Exactly what I do, although I more often shoot from the trees (or other point) to the corners of the buildings – partly to make sure I get at least two clear shots for each point located and partly to get up close and personal with as much of the site as possible.
Here is what I use now:
along with glasses similar to these: http://www.buy.com/retail/product.asp?sku=221519571&listingid=141256823 They make a huge difference in seeing that laser dot, especially in bright conditions. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
I did a review of the Fatmax for landscape Leadership about three years ago. I don’t know if it appropriate to add the link here, but it will come right up if you search
“Fatmax , landscape leadership”.September 6, 2011 at 1:23 am #160661
The dot just shows up very vividly even when I can’t see it at all without them. I used to constantly start by shining it at the ground near me and then trying to follow it to the target. You won’t have trouble finding the dot with the glasses. It really surprised me how good it works.September 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm #160660
Sorry for the late thanks Henry – Thanks!. I will give them a call when I need another survery.
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