What is a Measured Survey? Your Complete Guide

Join me for this deep dive into the specifics of your measured building survey service. We will cover everything from the basic definition, to the equipment we use, right down to individual case studies. It is likely you have heard that commissioning survey services is critical to the success of a construction project. Today, you will find out why.

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Revit Model of Highbury Hall
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    What is a measured survey?

    Whenever we begin construction work on a building, we must first be aware of its specific dimensions. A measured survey provides us with that data. Involving a total laser scan followed by the production of detailed digital drawings, surveys can show all elements of a building. Usually, the survey is specified to a particular level of detail, with acceptable tolerances for scale, accuracy, costs, and delivery times.

    How is a measured survey carried out?

    First, a surveyor will travel to the site and use specialist equipment to gather all the important information about the building. For a deep dive into the specific technology and equipment we use for our surveys, please view my post on survey equipment and technology.

    Once the data has been collected and returned to the office, skilled technicians set about producing a detailed digitisation of the structure in question, outputting their product to the specifications of the client.

    Main Hall of Highbury Hall as Revit Model

    How is a measured survey delivered?

    At Bury Associates, we find that professionals such as architects, engineers, and developers often require a 3D model in a BIM (Building Information Modelling) format, such as Revit or IFC. Constituting flawlessly executed digital replicas, designed using the most accurate data possible, these designs are the best way for stakeholders to appraise a building’s structure. For complex design proposals, or those involving heritage buildings, 3D modelling services are always the best way forward. A BIM model in Revit format can display such intricate details as cornices and stone carvings. All the data is scanned into a 3D point cloud, in which each point represents a specific location in 3D space. With this information at their disposal, our experts can create a digitised model of the surveyed structure.

    With their ability to show elements like doors, windows, level changes, and walls, 2D CAD drawings are sufficient for basic applications like space planning. To get the most comprehensive insight, some clients prefer to combine 2D and 3D survey services. For a detailed insight into this topic, please read our post on how to choose between 2D and 3D measured surveys.

    We would recommend combining your measured building survey with a Matterport tour service for the best results.

    What can measured surveys display?

    A measured building survey can show a number of different elements, including floor plans, internal and external elevations, and sections. But what does this translate to?

    Floor plans are exactly measured plans of any given floor. Over time, buildings are often added to, causing their floors to become uneven. This is where the utility of floor plans comes into play. By displaying any changes in the floor level, architects can show how they may want to even them out to produce a better design.

    Internal elevations show the exact measurements of windows, doors, walls, beams, and even electricity sockets. Similarly, external elevations paint a detailed portrait of a building’s outside facade. Surveyed elements can be functional, like waste stacks, guttering, and windows, or decorative, like the gargoyles on some historic buildings. Find out why elevation surveys are critical to re-cladding projects

    Sections constitute individual separations of a room that supply the specific measurements of anything in that section. The elements surveyed can be window placements, a beam’s depth and width, and how one floor sits in relationship to any others.

    Please note that measured surveys can also be conducted in outdoor landscapes. Termed a topographic survey, this maps out features such as boundaries and vegetation. If you would like more information on this topic, read our detailed guide to topographical surveys.

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    What equipment is used in a measured survey?

    Perhaps the most exciting aspects of a measured survey are the instruments and technology used by the surveyors. We have a dedicated guide to land and building survey equipment, but take as a basis that laser scanners, total stations, and drones continue to be the mainstays of a surveyor's toolkit. Each of these instruments uses specific technology to help the surveyor capture even the most intricate details. Laser scanners use Light Detection and Ranging technology (LiDAR) to record precise distances between elements. A total station optimises angle measurements. Finally, a drone employs photogrammetry to acquire data on remote elements of a building. The most advanced models of survey equipment integrate some combination of these technologies to record the most precise data possible.

    At Bury Associates, we stay up-to-date with the latest news in surveying technology and equipment, in order that we can continue to deliver the most accurate surveys for our clients.

    Conducting a Topographic Land Survey in Birmingham

    Who would need a measured survey?

    There are a number of professionals within the construction process who might require access to a measured survey, including:

    • Property developers
    • Engineers
    • Architects
    • Private estates
    • Construction companies
    • Private homeowners
    • Interior designers

    When are measured surveys required?

    If you are seeking to restore, redevelop, or extend any part of a property, it is critical to commission a measured survey in the first instance. This resource will form the foundation of the design process. Ensuring that plans are based on a properly-surveyed building minimises the likelihood of issues arising at each stage of the construction process. Such issues can include:

    • Problems with local planning authorities/neighbours:  Sometimes, extensions can contravene planning permission or encroach on a neighbour's property. In these cases, the affected neighbour may ask for a survey to reveal the error. This can result in necessary adjustments to the construction, which will increase the project's cost and postpone its completion. To prevent this, design proposals should always be based on a thorough survey, which will accurately map out boundaries.
    • Problems with the design: Incorrect measurements can lead to issues such as windows being placed in the wrong locations and floor levels not being aligned.
    • Overrunning costs: As part of their pricing process, contractors often ask for the architect’s proposed drawings in order to verify the specifications of the design. If the architect’s drawings are based on an inaccurate plan, the contractor may find a problem onsite and temporarily cease construction. If the contractor has underestimated the required work, the client will have to pay for more labour hours.
    • Incorrect ordering of materials: If the client's design has been based on incorrect measurements, their contractor may have overordered non-returnable materials, such as concrete. This racks up the expense of the project significantly.

    A measured survey should serve as the basis of any proposed construction plans. Subsequently, the architect's designs will be formed from a true reflection of the property's existing features.

    Revit model of former Kidderminster Magistrates

    How long does a measured survey take?

    The duration of a measured building survey factors in variables such as the size and complexity of the building, the level of detail specified by the client, and the deliverables requested. For example, 2D CAD drawings of a simple structure will have a much quicker turnaround than a 3D Revit model of a castle. The best way to ascertain survey timings is to request a free quote. This will include the lead time, which is the length of time before a surveyor can visit the site. Any reputable survey company will be able to provide an estimate for how long your specific survey will take to complete. At Bury Associates, we recognise that deadlines can be tight, which means we remain in constant communication with our clients. Due to our commitment to top-quality service, we can issue certain data and deliverables in advance of the deadline if our client needs them sooner.

    How much is a measured survey?

    In the UK, prices start from around £1000 + VAT.

    Much like a survey's duration, the cost of a survey depends on a number of factors, with most pertaining to both the proposed structure and the requirements of the client. Deliverables that require significant amounts of work in the office inevitably cost more than those that can be done in the space of a day. Equally, surveys of large, complex structures that require more time on-site are pricier than those of residential buildings. For a more detailed look at this topic, please see our post on the price of a measured building survey.

    Ultimately, the best way to find out how much a measured survey costs is to request a free quote. With specific information on the survey you need, we can provide you with accurate pricing.

    Measured surveys in London

    Over the years, Bury Associates have conducted many measured surveys in London, including the one pictured below:

    Revit model of a listed building in Belgravia

    This example shows just one of a number of listed buildings in Belgravia that were surveyed by Bury Associates. As you can see, we produced a detailed model which enabled the project team to plan the development in full confidence.

    Closer look at a Revit model of a listed building in Belgravia

    To view a measured survey near you, please see our page on measured survey case studies.


    As you now know, conducting a detailed measured survey is the crucial first step in a well-run construction project. While in the planning phase, gathering as much existing information about the building as you can provides an enormous benefit.

    For more posts like this one, please visit our Bury Associates blog, your resource on all things measured survey. We greatly appreciate each and every one of our readers. If you enjoyed reading, please consider sharing this post on social media.

    Other measured survey resources

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