What is As-Built Survey & How to Conduct One Accurately

As-Built Surveys: Digitizing Construction Documentation

During the construction process, few things are as certain as unplanned changes. Whether the result of unknown variables or a sudden change of heart, unplanned changes quickly make as-designed documents outdated. This is where as-built surveys come into play.

With accurate as-built surveys, you can tell a building’s whole story — even if that story had numerous revisions and drafts before reaching the conclusion. In the past, as-built surveys were a manual, time-consuming process. Today, they’re more doable than ever. 

Before diving into the technical advantages available to you today, it’s important to fully understand what as-built surveys are and why they’re critical to construction.

What is an as-built survey?

As-built surveys are an as-is blueprint of a project, detailing the project as it exists after any changes occurred. They are an in-depth record of a structure as it was built, not planned, and include final utility locations, measurements, materials, and more. The as-built survey is the first part of the two-step process that makes as-built plans possible, and is all about accurately gathering measurement or placement data. 

As-built surveys are typically accompanied by an as-built drawing or as-built model, which provide a visual record of the structure/project following any changes to the original plan. This set of as-built documents is an essential part of complete record keeping, as it ensures any future renovations or maintenance decisions are made with as much information as possible.

The significance of as-built surveys in construction

As-built surveys are a critical component of any construction project, whether it’s a renovation or a net-new build. Without as-built surveys, you’re stuck relying on blueprints and as-designed documents, and your best guess based on what you can see. But, with as-built surveys, your construction efforts are bolstered by a number of benefits.

Accuracy verification

As-built surveys are typically conducted using advanced surveying equipment, like laser scanners, meaning the measurements are often more accurate than those taken by hand. As-built surveys are also conducted after a project is completed (and often during the project). Between this and the technology used, you can rest assured the measurements are accurate and verified before documents are created and reports are handed off to any stakeholders.

Documentation of changes

While as-built surveys are often conducted at the end of a project, you can also run them after changes occur, but before project completion. Coupled with detailed notes from your on-site staff, this can result in thorough documentation of any changes that occurred during the project.

Future modifications or renovations

When approaching any modifications or renovations, more details and information are usually for the best. Approaching a renovation or update without accurate information can result in costly mistakes, and unexpected changes and challenges.

As-built surveys detail any changes that occurred during a project, including utility location changes or material substitutions, all of which can impact a renovation or modification. For example, if you’re trying to add additional outlets to a room, knowing where existing wires are can allow you to piggyback when creating new outlets.

Maintenance planning

Maintenance planning and budgeting is only accurate when you know what it is you’re dealing with. As-built surveys ensure you have accurate information on what materials were used on build sites, which utilities are newer and vice versa, and so on.

In other words, accurate as-built surveys allow you to determine which structures or projects pose the biggest risk in the coming year in regards to maintenance. They also save you the time and resources that come with hunting down an underground utility, and so on.

Asset management

Similar to maintenance planning, as-built surveys allow for more detailed and accurate asset management. From determining your maintenance budget to predicting which buildings could have the best ROI to figuring out your portfolio’s total value, as-built surveys are invaluable for asset management.

As-built surveys are especially valuable if you’re looking to sell any of your properties, as they go beyond a floor plan and reassure potential buyers of the real estate’s quality and value.

Collaboration and communication

Construction collaboration and communication can make or break a construction site. Unfortunately it’s easy for details to get lost in translation, especially when you have multiple sites or stakeholders that aren’t able to be on the site.

Accurate as-built surveys make it easier for your on-site teams to confidently communicate any changes to stakeholders, allowing everyone to stay in the loop. If you’re working with an outside client, this can also help with level-setting expectations by avoiding any nasty surprises at the end.

How to conduct an as-built survey

The goal of as-built surveys has largely remained the same — to ensure a project was completed up to par, and that all changes were captured. But, the methodology for conducting as-built surveys has changed drastically over the years, and can be broken into several steps.

  1. Planning: The survey team, whether internal or outsourced land surveyor team, will scope out the project. Then, they'll gather land surveying documentation, such as blueprints and as-planned documents. Lastly, they'll meet with engineers, architects, contractors, and any other stakeholders to ask any questions they have.

  2. On-site work: The surveyor team will measure all surfaces, using manual or digital tools. They'll also take stock of the site's existing condition, including any environmental risks, utility locations, any installations, water quality, and so on.

  3. Data intake: In the past, this process required manually sifting through data. Today, survey teams can use software to run through all survey data, from measurements to material information and so on. If there are discrepancies or gaps in the data, the team will reach out to stakeholders or site personnel.

  4. Drafting: The team uses the data from the previous step and drafts the actual as-built survey. The draft should succinctly tell the story of the project or site, including any changes that occurred up to that point.

  5. Review: The surveyors review the as-built survey to ensure it's accurate. Then, select team members from the site to review it as well.

  6. Delivery: Once the as-built survey is verified by surveyors and a handful of site personnel, the as-built survey is ready to be delivered to the other stakeholders.

Worth noting, nearly all of the above steps were once manual, requiring surveyors take measurements by hand, capture changes only with cameras, and sort through data without the assistance of software.

Looking to the future: How digital twins can improve as-built processes

As-built surveys used to require extensive time and effort. With today’s technology, both the time and effort required to make as-built surveys is nowhere near what it used to be.

Matterport’s Digital Twin platform is capable of quickly delivering accurate, 3D scans of the current state of any job site at any phase of the build, using a range of compatible 3D cameras or even a smartphone. Unlike traditional laser scanning, these scans take far less time while delivering accurate captures of an existing building that meets survey requirements.

New Dollhouse teaser

Using helpful features like measurement mode, you can pull accurate dimensions of any space within a Matterport digital twin in the format of TruePlan sketches. Matterport models are easily accessible for authorized team members online too, making it easier for your team to communicate and collaborate — no matter where they are. 

These Matterport scans are also compatible with a number of platforms and come in numerous formats, making it easier for you to deliver as-built surveys with the tool of your choice. For example, the e57 file provides a detailed point cloud file that you can manipulate using Autodesk Revit and others.

E57 Pointcloud

You can even use as-built information from previous projects to better-plan your upcoming projects using the Matterport BIM files. Less guesswork and more accurate predictions, means better allocation of your resources.

As-built surveys no longer require the same time, cost, and effort as before. Now, you can utilize them on more projects, even the smaller investments, ensuring they’re as accurate and useful as possible. Using digital twins for your next construction project can save you countless time and money, and give you a foundation on which to build lasting success.


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