When Dennis Snyder and Steven Rowe established Snyder & Associates in 1977, survey comprised the majority of the business. Forty years later, it remains a key service we provide as a comprehensive engineering and planning firm.
“Survey is one of the core services our firm provides,” shares Mike Geier, Council Bluffs Business Unit Leader for Snyder & Associates. “From land to engineering survey, our surveyors perform a key function in the overall makeup of our practice.”
Since Dennis and Steve opened for business, Snyder & Associates has grown from a two-man team to include more than 200 professionals. Spread across five of our eleven Midwest offices, our survey team of over 30 skilled individuals provides a range of services including topographic, hydrologic, and right-of-way survey, construction staking, subsurface utility mapping, and more.
“Although the basic fundamentals of survey remain the same, how survey work is performed today has changed dramatically since the early days,” notes Eric Miller, PLS, Snyder & Associates Survey Business Unit Leader. “Along with normal tools, it’s not inconceivable that a survey crew could have with them on any given day a variety of technology including a robotic total station, a GLONASS GPS Rover capable of connecting to a statewide network, a terrestrial HDS laser scanner, an autonomous/remote controlled hydrone with sonar depth readings, and subsurface locating equipment. Being versed in this evolving technology and apply the appropriate tools to the job are key factors to project success.”
Surveyors provide the foundation for sound engineering. The precise information they collect regarding the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface is the starting point for planning projects and developing solutions.
“It’s typically the first and the last phase of an engineering project,” explains Geier. “Surveyors are responsible for gathering existing information for the basis of design and conclude by documenting the as-built condition of the completed project.”
Taking place annually during the third week of March, National Surveyors Week aims to raise awareness of the profession through education, media, and public service. Hosted by the National Society of Professional Engineers, this year’s event will take place March 19-25, 2017.
In honor of National Surveyors Week, and the important role surveyors have played in our firm’s success, we recently sat down with members of our survey staff to learn more about the profession.
The main goal of National Surveyor’s Week is to raise awareness of the profession through education, media, and public service. With that in mind, reflecting upon your experience as a surveyor, what is something unique, interesting, or important you would share with someone interested in becoming a surveyor?
I am one of four hundred professional land surveyors in the state of Iowa. The number of professional land surveyors has been decreasing every year. If you want a rewarding career with high demand, look no further than becoming a professional land surveyor.
Erin Griffin, PLS
Keep calm, I’m a land surveyor. Now let the fun projects begin!
I would encourage someone thinking about entering the survey profession to think about the different avenues that exist within the field. There really is a variety of routes that a surveyor can take that would lineup with individual strengths and interests. Although challenging, every surveyor that I talk with seems to be happy with their choice of profession. It’s definitely been a great route for me.
Eric Miller, PLS
Survey Business Unit Leader
As an intern for Black Hawk County, I was approached by the County Land Surveyor to enjoy a day of land surveying. At the time, I only had one land survey class, so my knowledge of it was very slim. We searched for multiple section corners that day. I enjoyed the search and was interested in why we were searching for these so-called monuments. I spent the rest of my internship surveying and enjoyed learning about advancing technology such as GPS, the history of the profession, and the construction aspect of it.
I was interested in “taking pictures” for a career and had a desire to be involved with the big picture of how an engineering project is originated and planned out.
I kind of stumbled upon it during my senior year of high school when researching college paths. It stuck out in my mind and appeared to be a good blend of science, math, construction, and engineering.
I enjoy development projects. Typically, we work with the development engineers to provide preliminary survey, boundary survey, final plat, easement plats, and construction layout. Survey is always the beginning and end of a project, so it’s nice to see it through to its entirety.
I enjoy working on projects that require a heavily-involved, detailed building design. We perform all of our own survey calculations to accurately layout buildings in the correct location. Coordination with the project design team is paramount on these types of projects. Take the Des Moines Principal Financial Corp 1 building restoration project for example. It involved surveying structural component locations built in 1939, capturing survey data accurate to a thousandth of a foot, and working closely with the architect’s design team to calculate proposed structural components. It was also unique because it involved the construction of a skywalk between the existing Principal Financial building with a new one across the street that was in the preliminary stages of construction. The design teams from both projects worked closely together throughout the entire process to make both projects connect as planned.
There’s definitely a high-reward in some of the bigger, multi-year projects that are very complex, requiring a great deal of thoroughness and attention to detail. At the beginning, these projects can feel overwhelming, but when they are completed well, and the project is successful — it’s a very good feeling. On the other hand, projects that I’m able to work directly with the Owner on are fun as well. For example, preparing a Letter of Map Amendment or LOMA for short, that removes a mandate placed on a property owner to carry flood insurance, saving him or her thousands of dollars over the life of a property loan, is very satisfying.
The first challenge is recruiting new surveyors. Only two colleges have a civil engineering/land surveying two-year program in the state of Iowa. The second challenge is training the new generation of land surveyors that technology has its limits, meaning it can’t interpret deeds, easements, and evidence in order to retrace the steps of the original surveyor.
I agree — the availability of college graduates entering the surveying field is a concern. Some colleges have limited survey exposure and others have dropped their programs altogether. I also think survey technology is adapting very quickly. This can be a challenge for some that adapt slowly.
If you are someone who loves the outdoors, working directly with clients, and coordinating your own schedule, then surveying is the career for you. It is very intriguing to be involved with the steps that transition a farm field into a multi-story development in a just a few months. Satisfaction is gained knowing that our clients are taken care of. That level of satisfaction shows when clients call upon us time and time again to help coordinate their next successful project.
There are many disciplines within the survey profession, so there’s really no limit to the type of work that you can pursue. There’s a place in this career for tech geeks, outdoorsmen, historical researchers, builders, etc.
A respect for history is essential. As one of the world’s oldest professions, there is a lot of history that can be dug up in the research for a property. A surveyor must know how to apply this history and use it to assist the team in making the best decisions for a project.