Lee Scorrar: The Future of Engineering & Construction Surveying

One of the biggest changes in the surveying profession has been around the technology and software used. While surveying technology has been helping us measure and map the world for thousands of years, the measuring devices we use and what we do with the outputs has dramatically evolved over the last 30-40 years.

In the 1970s, the total station was introduced – the first major innovation in almost one hundred years. Next came robotics and computerised data collection. Historically, surveying required a surveyor and surveyor assistant in the field, however today, a robotic total station enables a surveyor to record measurements from a long-distance via remote control.

With the introduction and development of onboard software, surveyors are no longer required to complete the traditional manual calculations. The result of this is that the role of a surveyor has become more about prepping the data before they go to the site.

Here’s a look at the changes that are coming over the next 10 years and the likely impact:


New Zealand has been a bit slow to roll out certain technologies on a large scale – particularly around machine control. Other countries have proven these modern survey technologies to work, but New Zealand has been slow to adopt.

The adoption of technology, specifically cloud data storage in combination with data recorders in the field, allows surveyors to share and access data easily. Cloud storage can be used to push data to the field and get instant access; a surveyor can upload scans and view the data on-site as needed.


With the adoption of these technologies, the current workforce and surveyors coming through need to understand how to use them. For surveyors being introduced to these technologies, there can be quite a learning curve.

There will always be a need for surveyors, however the role of the surveyor has and will continue to become less laborious. There will be a heavier focus on supporting the various technologies on site.

The potential consequence of this shift is that the current and future generations of surveyors will only be exposed to technology-led measurement and mapping. The worry here is that these surveyors will lack exposure and therefore understanding of the fundamental surveying principles.


One of the changes I’m most excited about is the upcoming addition to the Registered Professional Surveyor (RPSurv) certification. Survey + Spatial are working on a certification project that will allow engineering surveyors to become certified under the RPSurv with an engineering surveying endorsement. This means engineering surveyors and construction surveyors can be professionally recognised in their field. This will be good for NZ as it is quite a struggle to keep surveyors in the engineering or construction space.

How is Woods preparing for these changes?


Woods has one of the most modern and expansive survey equipment inventories in New Zealand including terrestrial and mobile laser scanning technologies. We are not scared of investing in technology to be more efficient, however, we still have a heavy focus on the fundamental principles.


Understanding the principles is essential to ensure surveying is carried out in an accurate, safe, and ethical manner. That’s why at Woods we believe it is important our people understand the underlying principles, rather than just pushing a button on a machine.


Woods encourages and supports its staff to pursue continuous development and seek further qualifications in the industry. Once the competencies for the new certification have been designed and developed, Woods will ensure that it supports its construction and engineering surveyors through the process of becoming certified.

The diverse range and scale of projects Woods takes on means that Woods’ construction and engineering surveyors work on a variety of projects so are in an ideal position to be able to demonstrate the likely required competencies.

Want to know more about Surveying at Woods? Visit https://www.woods.co.nz/portfolio/surveying/

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