What is a Measured Survey?

Find out what a measured survey is, how they are undertaken and why they are used.

Article By: Tom Ayre | Last Update: January 2022

Before beginning any construction project, large or small, it is critical to conduct a thorough survey to ensure your proposed project is built correctly and to cost.

Find out about measured surveys and why they are so important before beginning any project.


What Is a Measured Survey?

A measured building survey is a digitalised model of your building to help Architects and Designers with their building design proposals. Measured surveys entail taking accurate measurements in order to produce CAD drawings.  They’re usually specified to a certain level of detail, with acceptable tolerances for accuracy, scale, delivery times, and costs.

Measured surveys can vary in detail. A basic survey will include elements such as walls, doors, windows, and level changes. A more complex survey may include electrical layouts, plumbing and more precise information.

Do I Need A Measured Survey?

A measured survey is critical to begin a construction project correctly. A measured survey is an important part because it serves as the foundation for the design process. Issues that arise at this stage will be repeated and amplified throughout the construction process.

A measured survey is usually commissioned prior to any building or refurbishment work and forms the basis of the proposed designs. Without an accurate measured survey, future problems can occur. These could be:

  • The proposed design not fitting or incorrectly sized.
  • Over/under ordering of materials.
  • Issues with local planning authorities.

How Properties Are Surveyed

The on-site survey is undertaken to capture the required detail specified by the client. Depending on the survey company, an on-site survey may use a variety of equipment.

Low-tech equipment includes:

  • Tape measures
  • Laser disto meters
  • Rulers
  • Measuring wheels

High-tech equipment includes:

  • 3D laser scanners
  • Total stations
  • GPS equipment
  • Ground penetrating radar


Example Equipment

Total Station

land surveyor draughting in CAD
Total station being programmed.

A total station is a very accurate piece of equipment that is used to record existing features and position things you want to build. It is a vital piece of equipment in the construction industry.

A total station is a tripod mounted machine that is setup to record individual measurement points. The measurement points can then be joined together like a dot to dot drawing to form an overall picture. Points can be classified on the instrument as “walls”, “ceiling levels”, “window openings” etc to easily distinguish and draw up in a CAD program.

Laser Measurer

laser distance measure
Laser distance measure device.

A laser measurer device sends out a beam of light and a visual red dot. The distance between the device and where you point it is then recorded.

Typically, laser measuring devices can record distances of up to 100 metres. The key advantage of using a laser instead of a tape is that a laser is a more consistent, accurate, and quicker way of measuring. 

Lasers don’t sag over distance, blow around in the wind or require 2 people for big distances!

3D Laser Scanner

3D Scanning survey service by THS Concepts
THS Concepts 3D scanning at Wembley stadium.

A 3D scanner is a relatively modern piece of equipment that sends out millions of light beams and uses this to form a point cloud. A point cloud is a 3D representation made up of millions of dots. 

The point cloud data can then be translated into traditional drawing types such as floor plans, elevations and sections.

GPS Equipment

GPS equipment is used to accurately position items using real world co-ordinates. The GPS equipment we use is capable of recording positions to the UK’s national ordnance grid to within 15 mm in height and position. Having your proposed design / existing survey positioned to GPS is useful because:

  • Useful for future contractors to position your build (all they need is their own GPS)
  • Sometimes a planning requirement to provide heights and positions to an ordnance survey grid.
  • You can overlay OS block plans of the local area and everything will fall into the correct position.


Camera for documenting the building

A camera is an important part of the measured survey process. Following the survey work, photos are taken of the survey area and beyond. Often, 100’s of photos are taken and are vital to remember how certain areas are arranged when drawing up in CAD. The photos taken can also help designers in the future to match materials or see before and after shots!

How Long Does A Measured Survey Take?

On average, a survey of a 3-bedroom house would take 4 hours by a surveyor with a 3D laser scanner. For bigger or smaller properties, this can be significantly longer or shorter, depending on the size of the property.

How The Office Work Is Done

Following the on-site survey, the surveyed information is analysed and sorted. To electronically draw up the surveyed information, a CAD (computer aided design) software package is used.

Typical CAD programs include AutoCAD, Revit, Microstation etc. There are a lot of different CAD packages. The most common is Autodesk’s AutoCAD.

The CAD program is utilised to produce a range of drawings depending on the project requirements. These include:

  • Floor plans
  • Elevations
  • Sections
  • Roof Plans
  • Street Scene Elevations

Get Your Measured Survey Quote

• Free quotations within 1 working day.
• Estimated drawing return dates.
• Fixed-price quotations.

Edward Sadler - Davis Construction
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"Proactive on site and quick. Customer service is of the highest level as well. Will be using for all future projects."
Teoman Ayas - MIM Studios
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"Professional and attentive. They produced good quality CAD survey tailored for the specific needs of our project. Their price was reasonable and they delivered it on time."
Anthony Kyrke-Smith - AKS Architects
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"Very efficient service with quick turnaround. I have used THS-Concepts before and I will again, when I next need a detailed survey."