Staking a Claim in Construction Technology

For most site-development companies in the construction industry, a full-service survey team is hard to come by. The technologies, licensing, and skill that it takes to produce satisfactory results is out of reach for many, and most find it easier to simply sub-contract the work out to survey partners. However, at HGC, this is not the case.

For the past 16 years, our survey team has been evolving to become the in-house resource group it is today. In 2007, we brought Doug Mackey on board as our very first surveyor with the goal of laying the foundation of, and continuously practicing, proper survey etiquette and standards. For ten months, Mackey, a Professional Land Surveyor, completed the required work single-handedly, tackling all aspects of the job from placing grade stakes to assisting in revising plans. Over the years, the team has expanded to include twenty-five teammates focused on four key areas:

Each of these groups work together to form our in-house survey team. With a fleet comprised of six crews, approximately fifty machines with GPS capabilities, six active drones and state-of-the-art software, this team collaborates to deliver effective and efficient results every day.

“To work at a company, and with leadership, that understand the importance of our role and allow us to push the boundaries of construction technology is something I am incredibly thankful for,” said Doug Mackey. “I have been involved with this group since its inception and believe the sky is the limit for us … literally!”
One of our rock star survey crews!

Getting the Lay of the Land.

From beginning to end, our survey team remains involved with each project for its entire duration. They are the first group to set foot on a site – even before clearing has begun. At this time, they provide valuable services such as marking boundaries and setting control, estimates of material that may need to be moved or changed, and details of the land for their site models and mapping. Not only are they the first boots on the ground at the start of a project, but they are also the last team to leave a site after its completion. They collect and generate final As-Builts that verify the completed work meets the design requirements for the client.

Throughout their day, a survey crew may employ various technologies such as Trimble Robotic Total Stations, which uses a laser pulse to measure distances and allow the team to determine the boundary of the property so they can mark the clearing limits. These machines also create 3D representations of the current landscape, layout of design features, and verify their location.

Surveying work is not just done on the ground, though. Using one of our six active drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), which take aerial images and videos of a site, work can be completed quicker and on a broader scale. During any phase of a project, UAVs can aid in planning, communication, and site monitoring. In both the construction and surveying industries, these positive effects of UAV use have helped HGC reduce potential rework by ensuring work is done correctly the first time. The ability to streamline daily surveying tasks through the detailed photographs and video footage enabled by UAVs makes for a far more efficient jobsite.

Mapping around 1,000 acres of land every week between roughly forty active jobs at a time, the survey team carries a heavy load for the company. Another responsibility for this group is that of updating all other HGC departments, like estimators, project managers, and field crews, on the frequent changes that occur on a jobsite. This way, each team can easily stay on the same page regarding progress, potential issues, and plan changes that might need to be made.

A survey crew works to set clearing limits on a new project.

Making Their Mark.

The ability to manage our very own survey department is unmatched, and we’re proud to say that our team’s practices, experience, and passion set them even further apart from the norm.

Being that all our survey work is done in-house, HGC is not just a site-development company, but a survey company as well. With licensing in both North and South Carolina, Mackey and his crew can help launch projects and assist in keeping them moving at the right pace with ease. Tyler Clowes, our Unmanned Technologies Manager, noted that under Mackey, their work is done to standard. Unlike many other survey companies, this group never stops at “close enough.”

“Our technology allows us to be much more accurate than GPS equipment used for grading, and that’s the goal.” According to Tyler Clowes, “We [HGC] are the only grading company in the Carolinas that offers LiDAR (light detection and ranging) Systems to clients in-house and we work directly with the manufacturers of the technology. All this allows us to continue to be the best at what we do!”

Another aspect of our survey team that makes them unique is their commitment to efficiency, clarity, and connectivity within their own team as well as between those in other external departments. Recently, they accomplished their goal of fitting all their equipment with Verizon SIM cards that make for easier transmission and collection of project data from site to site. This put an end to the near-constant hustle of traveling to and from jobsites to gather necessary information needed for surveying purposes, resulting in saved time, resources, and energy. This cloud-based, cellular-driven solution has allowed the field teams to save time, resources, and energy. This solution is currently being incorporated across all of HGC’s site service resource groups.

A further testament to the all-encompassing nature of HGC’s survey team is the work done by Charles Black and the CAD Department. CAD, or Computer Aided Drafting, is a vital part of not just the survey team, but HGC as a whole. The work done at all steps of our projects, from before boots are on the ground until the last teammate leaves, flow through this team to ensure mapping and data is as accurate and up to date as possible. The CAD Department receives the initial plans from the client to start a project, handles the distribution of updated data as it’s received, and submits the final As-Builts and other data at the end of a project for final approval to ensure the work is done to standard.

The survey team at HGC isn’t the best just because of achievements by their own hands, but also due to the way that they empower other crews. Every superintendent in both our mass grading and fine grading teams have access to their own GPS, and every crew has some form of grade control in their data collection. By allocating and maintaining these tools and resources to each project, we can remain on schedule and continue serving our clients, even when the survey team is not present.

Looking Ahead.

While the current processes in our survey department are highly effective and aid in our mission to be the best site-developer in the Carolinas, the future goals of this team still exceed the industry-leading work they already produce and will continue to drive HGC forward.

In the future, the survey team hopes to expand personnel, equipment, and client service. As more modern and intuitive technology enters the field, such as terrestrial scanners and 3D SONAR devices, our survey group aims to upgrade their resources and tools with solutions that are more accurate at the most cost-efficient price point. This team is dedicated to staying on top of trends within the industry, while maintaining tried and true strategies, and finding the next generation of construction professionals to ensure their work is superior to the competition.

“At HGC, I see us becoming completely self-sufficient,” states Catoe. “I think we’re looking at growing to 10-12 crews within the next five years just to keep up with the growth of HGC. Our future here is going to be top of the line, from equipment to teammates, and we’ll be able to provide services to our clients that other companies can’t offer.”

We are extremely thankful for the thorough, meticulous work that each member of the survey team accomplishes every day and are proud to have them working on our side. With every site marked, every model made, and every technology learned, our exceptional in-house group is another reason why we are able to maintain that Best is Standard.

Our UAV team takes a break from flying a project to pose for a photo!