Barbados Land Surveyors Association
Map of Barbados without detail

The Land Surveying Profession in Barbados  

Land Surveying can be defined as the art and science of measuring and mapping physical features, and the history of land surveying is as old as civilization itself. Surveyors were involved in building the ancient pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China, they are even mentioned in the Bible (see Zech 2; 1~2 Rev 21:15~17)

The profession of Land Surveying, however goes much deeper than that; there are many different types of Surveys each requiring different areas of expertise, different equipment and producing different end products:

Boundary Surveys and Subdivision Surveys are concerned primarily with defining the limits of the legal uses of land.

Topographic and Hydrographic Surveys deal with the three dimensional shape of the land and sea bed surfaces respectively including the features, natural or artificial found thereon.

Engineering Surveys and Construction Layout Surveys are usually performed to very high degrees of accuracy depending on the tolerances of the structures being built or documented.

And Control Surveys, which on a large scale are referred to as Geodetic Surveys are the most accurate of all and are used to provide a precise framework into which the other types of surveys are fitted.

In Barbados a Land Surveyors work can be very diverse and the licensed Land Surveyor is equipped with specialized knowledge and sophisticated surveying tools required to provide an efficient and effective service. The work of the Land Surveyor is rarely done in isolation, since he is one part in a 'team' of land and building professionals comprising Attorneys, Engineers, Town Planners, Quantity Surveyors and Architects.

Boundary Surveys

When selling a property it is the vendor's legal responsibility to furnish the purchaser with an adequate surveyors plot as well as to have the landmarks pointed out to the purchaser. A Boundary Survey by a Licensed Land Surveyor confirms the location of the property and it establishes that the specifics of the property boundaries are in agreement with a previous or a new certified plot plan. It also supplies the attorney with an accurate legal description of the property and it can alert the purchaser to any easements, rights of way or encroachments which might affect use of the land.

In carrying out such a survey the Land Surveyor is duty bound to be both accurate and impartial in his determination of the boundary. Only a Land Surveyor licensed by the Barbados Land Surveyors Board and registered with the Government of Barbados is legally permitted to perform Boundary and Subdivision Surveys in Barbados. Most active Land Surveyors as well as a list of current Barbados Land Surveyors Association members appear in the Yellow Pages of the Telephone Directory. A list of Registered Land Surveyors also appears in the Official Gazette.

Subdivision Surveys are merely boundary surveys where the end product is to create two or more new parcels of land where there used to be only one. This process usually involves consultation with the Town Planning Department as it is the Government agency responsible for regulating such developments, and depending on the number of lots to be created and the pre-existing infrastructure it may involve the design and creation of new roads and the provision of adequate utilities, all of which the land surveyor may oversee.

There are other circumstances when a boundary survey may be required. For example, when one considers the high cost of constructing a building, or even a simple 'guard wall', it becomes apparent that it would be foolhardy to undertake such a venture without being sure that such a structure is located correctly in relation to the property boundaries. There have even been cases where land owners have built houses on someone else's land, all because they didn't employ a surveyor to start with.

Topographic Surveys

When a property is being developed there are three stages through which the development typically passes. These are the design, approval and implementation stages.

Architects and Engineers are generally responsible for designing buildings and other physical structures, while Land Surveyors and Town Planners are involved in designing housing estates and subdivisions. Certain features such as road and drainage layouts may be designed by any of the above professionals.

For a sensible design to be produced, which maximizes the full potential of the land and takes into account any physical and legal constraints, the designer needs an accurate map showing not only the property boundaries but also the position and elevation of all significant features on the land. The Land Surveyor can provide this information in a Topographic Survey.

After the design has been worked out it must be sent to the Town and Country Planning Department for approval before the commencement of any work. The provision of a good design, taking into account the above mentioned features as well as any Town Planning restrictions or regulations can greatly expedite this process.

Engineering Surveys

During the implementation stage of most developments one of the challenges facing the builder or contractor is to get the new development (building, road, fence etc) in the correct location and at the right height according to the designers' specifications. A Land Surveyor should be engaged at this stage as the most competent person to set out the required locations and heights. Such setting out surveys should be considered as essential and are often preceded by some form of engineering or topographic survey including the provision of adequate control.

Engineering and setting out surveys can range from the simple positioning of a house in a residential lot to the precise measurement in three dimensions of sophisticated construction details such as spiral staircases, complex tiling patterns or the location of prefabricated structures or fixtures.

Technological Developments

Like so many other things the development of Land Surveying has been influenced by modern technology. The simple measurement techniques used as little as twenty five years ago by most surveyors in this country are no longer adequate to deal with the precision and pace of work now expected in the construction industry. The following describes the history and development of some surveying techniques.

Plane Tabling
Probably the oldest method of accurate surveying; this involved creating the actual map on site by mounting it on a flat 'table' on a tripod. By means of various sighting devices observations to site features were transferred directly onto the drawing. The scale of the whole drawing was controlled by accurately measuring the distance along a 'base line'.

Triangulation surveys
With the development of means to calculate various geometric and trigonometric formulae the one measured 'base line'could be mathematically extended into a whole network of positions. First sextants, then more sophisticated instruments known a theodolites were used to measure all the angles in each triangle. This method was largely used to establish the major control stations in Barbados in the 1920's

Compass and Chain

This involved the use of a magnetic compass and surveyors chain. (such chains were made up of 100 steel links each 2/3 of a foot long; many old boundary plans refer to distances in such 'links') This method was used in 1800's and early 1900's and is no longer in use today.

Transit and Tape
Angles are measured using a theodolite, (also called a transit) and distances are measured with steel tape. While the accuracy of this method is acceptable for most modern surveys it has severe limitations with regards to ease of use and detection of possible errors. This method was widely used by most surveyors up until 1980's and is still used by some surveyors today.

Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM)
Angles, distances and heights are measured electronically, typically using an infra-red ray, and on-board computers.Often the observations are electronically stored for downloading into an office computer. This method produces very high degrees of accuracy and rapid results and is the most popular method used today.

Satellite Positioning (GPS)
Sophisticated surveying equipment can now take readings from Global Positioning Satellites in order to determine both horizontal and vertical positions on the earth's surface. While this method is still not quite as accurate as EDM it has extensive applications, especially where very rapid measurement of a lot of data is required, (for example in large Topographic or Hydrographic Surveys) This method is used by several surveyors in Barbados today.

From the above it can be seen that Land Surveying is more than meets the eye, and it is hoped that this brief overview of the art and science of Land Surveying has served to clear up some of the misunderstanding or even just satisfy the curiosity of some who look on and ask themselves "I wonder what dat surveyor does see when he does look through dat ting?"

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Barbados Land Surveyors Association, Penrith, 11th Avenue Belleville, St. Michael. Tel: (246) 427-7019  Fax: (246) 427-7019
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