Q: What drew you into the surveying career?
I was taking any drafting class I could in high school. We were hand drafting everything and beginning to work with AutoCAD. We were drafting a wide range of items from gears and machine pieces to house blueprints. A buddy and I talked our drafting/architecture teacher into creating another drafting class so we could continue to develop our skills. I enjoyed the challenge to create a plan for someone else to recreate or construct an idea that was given. While in high school I talked with a family friend who told me about surveying. He said I could be outside collecting information and then come back to the office to recreate what was gathered.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a surveyor?
I like solving client problems and learning the history of the area that will be surveyed. Can’t have a boundary without an adjoining party. I like working with both parties to find the best evidence to establish the boundary. History is the other part that I enjoy because surveying is retracing the footsteps of the original surveyor. I like thinking about how a line would be run with a transit and chain while walking around with GPS equipment. Knowing how they would have done things in the past helps explain why the distance between two points might be longer or shorter than what was recorded.
Q: Fehr Graham strives to be innovative. What aspects of surveying are innovative or are becoming innovative?
I am involved with stringless paving operations and some scanning pieces. I'm working on stringless paving for concrete overlays and new concrete paving. This requires control points to be within 250 feet of each other and the datum to be very tight. These tolerances will affect the outcome of the quality of the ride and smoothness of the project. The 3D polylines we create with our surface model gives the contractor information to steer the paving machine and controls the depth of pavement. With pavement overlays, the challenge is not only the control point layout but the varying cross-slope of the pavement. The varying cross-slope affects the depth of concrete in a given spot because the concrete paver can only operate within a given tolerance. For example, the concrete paver can’t be thinner than the required 5 inches because the machine will bottom out on the existing pavement. The scanning we completed was of an ornamental stone on a building. We scanned the stone and created a 3D model of the ornamental stone piece. We worked with a precast concrete company who put the 3D model in their CNC machine to cut concrete molds. After concrete was cast in the molds, the finished product turned out like the original stone. These two different projects presented different challenges beyond the new survey equipment and got other individuals involved with the project.
Q: What surveying project makes you the proudest?
I can see a project from the concept to the finish product. Whether it's laying out a new building, constructing a road or creating a subdivision. It is hard to pick just one project. I would say the Edwards Cast Stone piece would be high on the list. We used the scanner and created a 3D model of the piece and had the company build a replica of the original piece. We have the two side-by-side, and the accuracy is impressive. The next would be the removal of the dam in Manchester and layout of the whitewater stream features in the Maquoketa River. We created six whitewater features for kayaks to navigate through in the Maquoketa River. This improved the river for the environment and fish population and helped create a unique attraction to the City of Manchester. I even laid out the building and parking lot that our new office moved into.
Q: Why do you think surveying is important?
Surveying is important because the federal, state, and local courts all say a surveyor is the only person capable to establish boundaries. We are constantly following in the footsteps of the previous surveyor to find the boundary or section line. We are a key piece to mitigate between two parties a solution before an attorney is involved. We also work with engineers to topographically survey an area and layout the design to be constructed. We work with landowners, attorneys, local government officials, and engineers all at the same time on one project or individually on a project.
Q: What is something that you wish more people knew about surveying?
All of the above. I wish I could talk to students in high school and tell them they don’t need to go to a four-year college to make a lot of money. Because the money is all they are focusing on right now. I wish I could tell them that surveying is a rewarding career with many areas to develop their skills. If they want to have a mix of outside and office work, this is the perfect job. If they have a craving for history, then this profession is full of that. If they want to draft and create, this profession is perfect. If they want to solve problems on a daily basis then, hello, surveying is the perfect job.
About the Author
Adam Recker, PLS, completes land surveys, ranging from survey, retracement and subdivision acquisition plats to easements and ALTA surveys. He works with municipalities, contracts and private citizens.