Why you need a Total Station

Let’s get a couple issues out of the way first. I’m not a shill for the hardware manufacturers. I have had my frustrations with hardware over the years. I know their job is to sell things to all of us. I just want to talk about a piece of equipment that will make you money.

The total station is another way of getting a corrected signal at the end of a cable, or radio. You will use a data collector (in most cases) and your current 3D model. We are using the Total Station (TS) to give us a particular advantage, more on that later.

A TS relies on providing rapid measurements of distance and angles from the TS to a target. The optical reading is very quick, reliable and repeatable. In order to get GPS to provide accuracy as close, long occupation times are required to reduce signal noise and tighten the residual numbers for required accuracy. In some conditions, GPS may not give you the desired accuracy because of environmental conditions.

When to use a Total Station
I don’t advise using a TS on every aspect of the job. They are a specific instrument with a wide scope of use, but not complete. When you start using a TS, you are entering the realm of survey accuracy, WELL beyond that of regular GPS. More specifically, the x,y component of GPS may be good, but the accuracy of a TS in these 2 axes and most importantly the vertical (z) axis sets you up for easier work in some of the following areas;

Control Points
Control needs to be set by the surveyor. They know what is required to make control work on your job site. A TS can be used to verify control or check the location of a control point that may have gotten bumped. If you need a new point to reference on the job site, a TS will make it easy. This happens as the job gets built and existing control is wiped out or cannot be used due to construction blocking access or use.

I have always advocated that survey lay out all hardscape and concrete. They need to stamp that it is correct and you want the reassurance. The detailed location of building corners and grading a pad are a long way apart. In other words, if you can accurately locate the corners of a building and verify pad placement from the beginning it will save surprises down the line.

I really like using a TS for the setting of forms for flared end sections and cast in place curb boxes. The quick accurate reading will make life simpler and you are not spending money to have the surveyor wait for you to cut and nail forms. Get the surveyors verification when you are formed up and pour.

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