What are Certified Site Levels?
Certified levels are levels that have been taken by a Licensed Cadastral Surveyor, or under his or her direction, and have been verified by a surveyor as being correct, and in terms of a known benchmark and datum. They may be spot heights, contours or another type of level, but the key component is that they are in terms of a known datum and have been verified as correct.
When should you obtain Certified Levels, and why?
With any building or development project, it is important to have accurate and correct information right from the beginning. As soon as a designer, architect or builder has a commission to begin a design or build, the first thing you should be requesting is levels, and certified ones no less. Council may require that any sort of certification pertaining to building location, floor height or recession planes, be signed off by a Licensed Cadastral Surveyor. If we are required to work on a project and we cannot guarantee the origin or accuracy of the levels on the plans provided, it is likely we won’t be able to complete the certification, or we will have to do our own levels to enable the project to be signed off.
Too often we get asked to undertake a Building Location Certificate or to certify a Finished Floor Level prior to concrete being poured, and the levels shown on the consented plans have been undertaken by either an unlicensed surveyor, Bob the builder, or in some instances, there are no levels at all! Often we are asked to certify that a building going in the correct position and at the correct level, and there is no datum shown on the plans, no site benchmark available, or levels shown are in terms of an “assumed” datum. The hassles then begin with us trying to certify the project based on incorrect, irrelevant or imagined information. This leads to additional time and fees as a result, further frustrating the building process.
The advantages of using Certified Levels
When we get asked to provide levels for any building or development project, the first thing we do is search the relevant level datum information in the area. In some instances, this is a Council Verified Benchmark relatively close to the job, in other areas it may be a LINZ or Ecan level located some distance from the job. These distant levels require a high degree of survey skill to transfer to the site location to the required level of accuracy, and this is why it is important to use a surveyor to do these levels.
The next thing we do is provide a site benchmark, for use throughout the project. This is usually a peg or steel pin in a safe location away from the area of work, but close enough so that it can be referred to by the builder, contractor and the surveyor, whenever they need to set or check a level.
Why are Certified Levels seemingly expensive when I can get levels done cheaper elsewhere?
As you can see from the above, taking certified levels is not just about pulling up in the van and doing a few spot levels in terms of the boundary peg. The correct information needs to be obtained first, prior to attending on-site, then the work needs to be undertaken to the level of accuracy required by Councils. All this takes time, and time is money. So although it may seem a bit more expensive initially, in most instances, having the correct information at the beginning of the project saves time and processes further down the track.