Land surveyor

What does a Land Surveyor do?

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A Land Surveyor is considered one of the oldest professions in the world, providing expertise in the measurement of land and airspace.

Land Surveyors are exclusively responsible for determining boundaries of interests in land.

A Land Surveyor has the ability to scientifically measure on a very large scale. For this reason they can often be considered one of the civil engineers’ closest companions.

abcls logo

ABCLS logo


In British Columbia, Canada, The Association of British Columbia Land Surveyors (ABCLS) protects the public interest by regulating the practice of land surveying. There are only 350-400 registered BC Land Surveyors.

Here’s what you need to know about Land Surveys, and how they can come in handy for your project or help in resolving issues.

What is a land survey?

A land survey covers a very wide range of services and methods. Simply put, it can be described as a specialized report that thoroughly examines and measures the three-dimensional positions of points, and the distances between them.

A land survey can often be a way to clear up a lot of confusion, by providing cold hard facts.

How are land surveys made?

Land Surveyors use a range of methods and technology to collect data in order to accurately report their findings. This could include using GPS, GIS, drones, Total Stations, 3D Scanners, digital levers and more. Land is unique, so therefore as is each project requirement and then often the methods used to collect data.

One of the more common methods of collecting survey data is through the use of a Total Station. A Total Station combines angles with distance measurements. These are obtained by calculating the integer wavelength of reflected light that is emitted from the Total Station, and returned by a specialized reflector, or reflected off a surface. You then triangulate the location of any point using trigonometry. This allows the Surveyor to provide control points and accurately map an area of land.

Total Station

What are the reasons to need a land survey?

People need surveys for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • Resolving boundary disputes:

    Residentially, people often get land surveys when there’s a disagreement over where one person’s property ends and another’s begins. A common example is when a neighbour erects a fence or plants trees that appears to be over a property line. If the neighbours can’t come to an agreement between themselves, they might hire a land surveyor to figure out whose land it is, and therefore where the fence can legally be built.

  • Understanding plot size and price:

    Land surveys can accurately determine how large a plot of land is that’s being bought or sold. It’s therefore a great negotiation tool. If a survey finds that a plot is actually smaller than advertised, buyers can bargain accordingly.

  • Building a new home:

    If you’re building a home, you’re very often required to have a land survey completed. For instance, topographical surveys show the elevation points across a property to determine the best place to build a structure or establish drainage.

  • Construction layout:

    If you are a property owner, builder, or contractor, and will be building a new structure, you will need to ensure that the structure is placed on the subject parcel so that it:

    • Adheres to all the required setbacks
    • Does not encroach on encumbrances
    • Is accurately constructed based on the design
    • Meets other related requirements like minimum and maximum heights
  • A change in boundary:

    One of the biggest roles a British Columbia Land Surveyor plays is in defining and redefining boundaries. This can be part of a new development, a change in parcel boundaries for the purpose of subdivision, a requirement to define a covenant area, or creating easements or statutory right of ways granting access over land.

  • Deformation monitoring:

    This is the process of taking periodic measurements of critical structures and comparing them to original measurements to monitor movement. This may be needed as part of construction to ensure that nearby structures are not negatively affected or to do periodic checks over long periods of time of other critical structures.

  • Volume reporting:

    These types of surveys are used to determine quantities of materials which are often used for inventory or determining payment.

Total Station There are many reasons you’d need a Land Survey, such as boundary disputes or when building a new property

What services does a BC Land Surveyor provide?

Most BC Land Surveyors have the ability to provide a huge range of services. At GeoScan we respond quickly to the following commercial, residential and recreational projects in the lower mainland area:

  • Topographic Surveys
  • Construction Layout
  • Control Surveys
  • Building Certificates
  • Legal Surveys including Subdivisions, Postings, Boundary Staking, Strata
  • Deformation Monitoring
  • As-Built Surveys

Want to know more about each? Head to our service page for a thorough overview.

GeoScan Land Surveying GeoScan provide land surveying services as well as many subsurface surveys

How much does a land survey cost?

The cost of a land survey is influenced by so many factors. Below are a few examples that you’d need to consider when instructing a surveyor to begin work.

  • The size of the area / tract

    • Generally speaking, the larger the area, the larger the cost, but this is not always the case. The good news is that the larger the area, the cheaper the typical cost per acre.
  • The type of survey

    • If you don’t know what survey you need, then visit our services page or call us. Our team will be able to talk you through the options and therefore you’ll be able to understand an estimated cost. In most cases, the more information and data collected, the longer it takes, and therefore the more it’ll cost.
  • Travel distance

    • There are only a limited number of BC Land Surveyors in British Columbia, so the travel distance is often a valid factor in working out cost. The cost of fuel and the length of the drive must be considered when the job is a significant distance away from the surveyors office.
  • Terrain

    • Any difficulties in collecting data is always worth considering. A pasture land will take less time to collect data than a wooded tract, so therefore the cost of the project will reflect that. Any information on the terrain given to your surveyor before the quoting stage makes your initial estimated quote more accurate.
  • Shape of the area / tract

    • Typically boundary surveys would be highly affected by the shape of the area. Even though the acreage might be similar, two areas of a differing shape may therefore differ in ease of data collection, so therefore the price might be affected.
  • Information availability

    • Something that is not always considered is the time it takes to track down information that is not readily available. In a lot of cases this applies to legal documents that affect a property. These legal documents can be described as a surveyors instruction manual! Without key information that typically is held within the title, the surveyor cannot accurately or efficiently complete the task or protect the client’s interest.


Land Surveyors are employed in both the office and the field, using the highest technology to provide the most accurate information. The work a Land Surveyor does is extremely varied and is influenced by whatever the need of the client. In British Columbia, the profession is highly regulated, meaning the quality of the work produced is typically extremely accurate.

Most Land Surveyors categorise their services into 6-8 areas of expertise, each requiring multiple methods to ensure excellence. This influences cost, but in all cases due to the complexity of the work needed, you are advised to use the consultation provided by your chosen Land Surveyor to accurately determine what you need.

About GeoScan Land Surveying

With 16 years experience in BC Land Surveying, the GeoScan BCLS team are professional and highly qualified. They have experience working across Western Canada on a huge breadth of projects. Led by Rafael Rebolone (BC Land Surveyor), the team has the knowledge and expertise to meet all commercial and residential survey needs. This includes local homeowners, builders, consultants, and private land developers across all of British Columbia.

GeoScan Land Surveying has a great understanding of how to customise client needs. Each job has a unique requirement and whilst working within various municipalities within Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley areas the deliverables often change. It is ensured that surveys are tailored to meet the approval of your local municipal and approving authority.

With a range of other services under one roof, the GeoScan team brings deep expertise to many technologies and applications from conventional land surveying to 3D laser scanning. As part of the GeoRadar Group, GeoScan are partnered with Xradar Concrete Scanning and VUIT 360.

Want to speak to one of our Surveyors? Get in touch to find out how we can help.