Behind the Scenes – How Surveyors Shape Canberra’s Urban Environment

As urbanisation and its associated environmental changes and processes subsume more and more of Australia’s landscapes, they are among the greatest threats to much native biodiversity.

These largely permanent land-use changes may have consequences for a wide range of habitats, including those that support many insect species. For example, heat island effects and extensive artificial lighting may affect some ground-dwelling insects, as do changes to water run-off or nearby wetlands.

The role of surveyors

Surveyors measure, record and analyse land-related data for planning, regulation or development purposes. They are also responsible for certifying legal documents.

They use their skills to help ensure that property boundaries are accurately determined and that utilities are placed properly. This can reduce the risk of building over property boundaries or digging up gas and water lines.

Architects, engineers and planners depend on surveying data to plan roads, utilities and landscaping projects. They can then overlay these data with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create maps, reports and charts that can be easily understood.

A university degree is typically required to become a surveyor, along with a licence to work in this field. Some universities offer internship programs that give students practical experience. These can be a great way to start your career, and lead to full-time employment.

Surveyors’ role in preparing for climate change

Surveyors use a variety of tools and technologies to measure angles, distances and locations below, on and above the Earth’s surface. They work with elements of geodesy, geometry, trigonometry, regression analysis, physics, engineering, metrology and the law.

The main types of surveys are topographic (land and water) and marine. Topographic surveys help determine where buildings should be located and how deep the foundations should be.

Land surveyors in Canberra also help to create and maintain property lines. They research land records and titles to show changes and report on restrictions, such as the size of buildings or what kinds of structures are allowed on a specific property.

Surveyors’ role in supporting resilience

The development of resilient urban systems faces a wide range of challenges. These include the complex nature of governance, a volatile and emergent nature of threats and the speed of change in cities.

There are several resilience conceptualisations that can be used to develop urban resilience policies. Some of these concepts have received criticism, but others do appear to be useful.

For example, the concept of bouncing back is seen as a short-term approach to dealing with disasters and recovering infrastructure within a limited time scale. Alternatively, the concept of falling forward is seen as a long-term approach to rebuilding cities after disasters.

While addressing the ‘what’ of resilience (various conceptualisations) is important, it may also be necessary to address the ‘why’ as well. For example, the concept of falling forward may not resonate well with people affected by disasters and it could be difficult to build the political will needed to rebuild a city after a disaster.

Surveyors’ role in reducing carbon emissions

Surveyors play a major role in the management of geo-information for a variety of purposes, which include planning and managing Smart Grids to expand renewable energy. They also help to make the big picture out of local, regional and global change by means of geo-information.

Surveying is a science based profession with a diverse and often times multi-disciplinary portfolio of competencies. It’s a field of expertise spanning the disciplines of geoinformatics, land management and development, building and land law, real estate and business administration, to name but a few. The scientifically proven ability to measure, collect and process geo-information for spatial planning, research, design and management has a significant impact on achieving national and international goals for climate mitigation, resilience and sustainable development. As one of the few professional groups with a dedicated carbon reduction team, surveyors are well positioned to lead the way in helping the global community to reduce their emissions and make our cities, suburbs and towns greener.