Surveying Services

Surveying owes its origins as far back as 2700 BCE in the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza. 

Over the past five millennia, surveying has transformed into a profession that has artfully combined science, mathematics and technology for the increasingly accurate location and construction of infrastructure, dwellings and boundaries.  

Hillocc has spent the past 27+ years perfecting these advancements for the development of residential homes and projects throughout SEQLD. With over 13,000 surveys completed, we’re able to leverage our experience to provide you with the best possible outcome. 

Below you’ll find the different types of surveying services available, including: 

  • Brief explanation
  • Process involved
  • Use cases

⇓ Click on headings below to expand for more information ⇓ 

Contour / Detail Surveys

A Contour or Detail Survey involves the three-dimensional mapping of an existing lot of land. This includes locating the general shape of the lot, its levels and any major artefact that is either located on the lot or potentially impacts the project you're planning. These artefacts may include: 

  • Dwellings on or near the property
  • Large trees
  • Retaining walls and fences
  • Underground and overhead services, etc.

These surveys go by many names: 

  • Contour survey
  • Detail survey
  • Level survey
  • Feature survey
  • Topographical survey

However, they effectively describe the same thing. The output of a Contour Survey is the production of an accurate and detailed topographical map. This survey is primarily used by architects, building designers, certifiers and builders for the design and planning of homes and other buildings. 

Poor planning often leads to project delays, cost overruns and sometimes even failure. As the Contour effectively forms the foundation on which the entire project is built upon, it’s critical that it's done accurately and with sufficient detail. This is why architects and building designers always require a Contour Survey and sometimes ask for a new one if the original is completed to a sub-optimal standard; often at an additional cost to yourself. 

That's why Hillocc guarantees that we’ll provide you with a Contour Survey with the sufficient level of detail and accuracy required for your project, or we’ll complete it again at no additional cost. 

Boundary / Identification Surveys

Boundary or Identification Surveys involve the identification of a lot’s external boundaries and physically marking them on the ground. Whilst this sounds simple, the process of identifying where boundaries should be located is immensely complicated. 

Queensland operates within the Torrens Title system which guarantees the current facts relating to title for each registered lot; for example, the size, dimensions and location of a property's boundary.

To provide this guarantee, the state government requires all Boundary or Identification Surveys be complete exclusively by Registered Cadastral Surveyors with a Consulting Endorsement. This is the highest level of qualification and certification that a Surveyor can attain and normally takes several decades to earn. 

A Boundary or Identification Survey can take several days to complete and there are several time-intensive activities that need to take place before a single boundary mark can be placed on your property: 

  • Purchase and analysis of all Survey Plans affecting your lot
  • Location of all above and below ground survey marks listed on the Survey Plans
  • Measurement of the survey marks

Much of this process takes place on the streets around your property as well as in the office environment. 

As the majority of plans and information that a Surveyor is required to work from predate 1980 and were initially made using antiquated technology, there is often significant differences and inaccuracies during this location process. Reconciling these differences is highly complicated and requires the use of advanced trigonometry, significant experience and skill. Once the Registered Cadastral Surveyor with a Consulting Endorsement has calculated the “most correct” position for your boundaries, they can finally place physical marks in the ground. 

Once your boundaries have been marked, the Surveyor is required to prepare a Survey Plan for lodgement to the Queensland Department of Resources as a matter of public record.

The Survey Plan is also considered a legal document that can be used in court proceedings.

A Boundary Survey is generally required when you need to identify the exact location of your boundaries. These circumstances include the material change to existing properties when you want to: 

  • Build a new house or pool
  • Build extensions onto an existing house
  • Erect new fences/retaining walls
  • Determine whether a neighbour's structure encroaches on your property
Sub-division Surveys

A Sub-division Survey involves splitting an existing lot of land into two or more smaller lots. Your local council town-planning and zoning regulations will determine whether or not this is feasible for your property. 

Whilst the subdivision process varies slightly between local councils, the general process looks like this: 

1. Engage a property development consultant: Town Planner or Surveying firm with Town Planners.

2. Feasibility study: Development consultants will determine the development feasibility inline with council regulations.

3. Contour / Detail Survey: This survey identifies all existing structures and levels on a property and is used to determine to plan the subdivision layout and location of any new services

3. Proposal Plan: Surveyor will design the subdivision to comply with the relevant assessment criteria

4. Development Application: Town Planner will lodge the Development Application (DA) to council

5. Operational Works Application: Lodge an Operational Works application to council to gain approval for all required new services to be constructed

6. Undertake the required works:

  •    Earthworks (as applicable)
  •    Construction of services such as footpaths, sewerage, stormwater, etc (as applicable)
  •    Pegging the boundaries of all lots 
  •    Preparation of new Survey Plan to enable registration of the new lots by the State

7. Plan Sealing: Surveyor creates and submits the Sub-division Plan to council for sealing

8. Plan Registration: Solicitor or property owner submits the Survey Plan to the QLD Government Titles Office for registration 

Once the government has registered the Survey Plan, new titles are created and the purchasers of the land can finalise their transactions. You will now be able to legally transfer the title, sell or build on the new lots. 

As there are numerous variables affecting each subdivision, there is no exact timeline for completion of each project. However, it’s not uncommon for a simple 1-2 lot subdivision to take 6-12 months. As the size and complexity of the subdivision increases, this time period can expand into several years as seen with major residential developments. 

Amalgamation of Lots

Amalgamation refers to creating a single parcel of land from the combination of two or more lots owned by the same registered owner.

On some occasions an amalgamation of lots can be performed with a Combined Plan (no field surveying required) because there is no change to the external boundaries. To determine whether any changes to external boundaries are likely to occur, speak to your Registered Cadastral Surveyors with a Consulting Endorsement.

Whilst there is no local council approvals required of a plan of amalgamation, you will still need to engage a Registered Cadastral Surveyors with a Consulting Endorsement to prepare a Combined Plan.  

Amalgamation of lots is usually undertaken by property owners seeking to: 

1. Personal use. Build a larger home and/or increase privacy, reduce quantity of rates notices

2. Development potential. Change the zoning to a higher residential density

A recent trend gaining popularity involves several neighbours “joining forces” to amalgamate their properties for the purposes of rezoning their combined property. When the rezoned lot sells, it often does so for a greater multiple than if they had sold their properties individually at the original zoning. 

Whatever your purpose for amalgamating your lots, Hillocc has significant experience in amalgamation and can help guide you through this exciting project. 

Building Set-outs

A building set-out involves the transfer of the building design onto the physical ground of your site exactly as they are located on your building plan. This generally includes the positions of all building corners but can also include centre lines of walls or building steps in split-level blocks. 

Building set-outs ensure your house is located not only where it supposed to be built, but all of the structural elements of the property such as concreting and frames are built square; which directly impacts the structural integrity of the building.  

Depending on your site and the level of accuracy and assurance you want to know that your property will be built right, there are four types of building set-outs to consider:  

1. Staking. If earthworks are required before construction.

2. Set-out. Dumpy and tacks placed on the ground for concreters. 

3. Pinning. If concrete footings are used in the building construction (not required for floating slabs)

4. Slab marking. Ensures the frame is square and not overhanging the slab.

As a minimum, Hillocc recommends each project utilises #2 and 4 (Set-out and Slab marking). If your builder uses concrete footings in their foundation construction method (opposed to floating slabs), then we also recommend #3 (Pinning). 

At Hillocc, we understand each project is unique and has its own complexities. We work closely with Architects and Building Designers to understand these complexities so that we can translate them into a simplified Set-out plan that physically shows builders on the ground where to construct your dwelling. This ensures your home is built to millimetre accuracy so you can rest assured it will remain structurally sound for many years to come.

As Constructed Surveys

After the completion of a new development, an As Constructed (AsCon) Survey is performed to identify and locate all of the constructed services, such as; earthworks, buildings, sewer, stormwater, etc. 

The AsCon Survey is undertaken to confirm whether these services have been constructed in accordance with the building plans and specifications approved by the council in your Development Approval (DA). 

Building certifiers sometimes require an AsCon Survey so they can sign off on final certification of building works in accordance with the DA and Building Approval (BA). 

Location Certificates

The purpose of a Location Certificate is to ensure that the land described in a purchase contract is accurate, to confirm that any improvements appear to be within the boundaries of the land and that there are no encroachments. 

In Queensland, the only legal mechanism to perform this task is via an Identification Survey. See "Boundary/Identification Surveys" above for further details.  

Height Certificates

Applicable to SEQLD

Post-construction Height Certificates. Height Certificates are generally only applicable to Brisbane and Redland council districts.

A Height Certificate (aka Form 16 Certification) is a field survey that measures the building height directly above the ground level after the building has been constructed. 

Generally speaking, buildings in low-medium density areas in SEQLD are permitted to be 8.5m above the original ground level in Redlands and 9.5m within Brisbane. 

The surveyor is responsible for calculating the maximum building height in relation to the original ground level. The original ground level is determined by a combination of:

  • Council regulations
  • The ground levels of the land when it was subdivided or new roads were constructed
  • Council has approved new ground levels in accordance with a Development Approval (DA)

This is critical step as the current levels of most properties differ to their original levels due to earthworks involving cutting or filling. 

A Height Certificate is required when: 

  • Building a new house or units
  • Raising a house
  • Renovations that add an additional level

Pre-construction Height Certificate. A pre-construction Height Certificate is often requested by architects and builders to ensure they're not going to exceed the maximum level prior to construction. 

Flood Height Certificate. These are to determine habitable and non-habitable floor levels of a dwelling to ensure that they will be constructed above the minimum required Reduced Levels (RL's) to the Australian Height Datum (AHD). 

Lease Surveys

A Lease Survey is the measurement of the entire lettable area of land or building. The total area becomes the basis for determining the rental value of the property under the terms of a lease agreement. 

The rental value of most leases are determined largely on the square metre value. Therefore, it’s important to have an accurate measurement of the internal space. This also ensures compliance with the Land Titles requirements for long-term and high-value leases. The plans for these leases must be registered in the Queensland Titles Office and must be performed by a Licensed Cadastral Surveyor. 

A Lease Survey is required when: 

  • Your building or land lease has a term greater than three years 
  • A local government requires it for community facilities or infrastructure
  • Your property is deemed a high-value lease 

The guidelines surrounding Lease Surveys are governed by the Property Council of Australia which also publishes the handbook ‘Methods of Measurement’. This handbook forms the basis upon which Surveyors measure the floor space of your premises.  

When conducting a Lease Survey over land, the boundaries of the lease area are to be physically marked on the ground. 

Other Lease Survey types

There are other Lease Survey types not mentioned in this article that may be applicable to you; e.g. mining, profit à prendre, etc. For further details regarding other types of Lease Surveys, see the Queensland Government Department of Resources website. 

Building Format and Exclusive Use Plans

A Building Format Plan (BFP) is a form of subdivision that usually applies to multi-story unit and office complexes, townhouses and duplexes. 

The purpose of a BFP is to define the land using the structural elements of the building to form its boundaries. This includes the buildings walls, floors and ceilings. 

Most developments that require a BFP will also include the creation of common property which includes areas such as courtyards, carparks and storage. These areas are associated with specific units, but lie outside of the physical boundaries identified in the BFP. An Exclusive Use Plan (EUP) is also developed to accompany the BFP and allocates ownership or tenancy of certain common property areas to specific units. 

The inclusion of a seperate Exclusive Use Plan enables flexibility to both owners and the Body Corporate. Through written agreement between owners and the Body Corporate (in accordance with Body Corporate by-laws), areas identified in a EUP can be changed or swapped. This agreement is then registered with the Queensland Department of Resources via a change in the Body Corporate by-laws, a New Community Management Statement (CMS) is lodged, which includes an updated EUP.

Under the Land Title Act, only a Registered Cadastral Surveyors with a Consulting Endorsement can prepare a Building Format Plan and the accompanying Exclusive Use Plan. 

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Hillocc is here to help. Whether you have questions about sub-division potential, development feasibility or just need some general guidance... Reach out to us to discuss your project.
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