AllyCAD Showcase

SURVEYING CHALLENGES


MHP Geomatics, Durban

"It takes a special kind of person to be a surveyor. Besides having a strong Maths and Geography acumen, a surveyor has a passion for the outdoors and is not afraid to rough it out." These are the words from Dave Biggert, Director of Survey at MHP Geomatics. This dedicated and astute surveyor has more than twenty-five years in the industry and has travelled to the most rugged parts of Africa to lay the foundation for further development projects.

Dave recalls the early years when AllyCAD was still in its Dos format and marvels at how the program has evolved since then. "There was initial scepticism when the Windows version of the program was first introduced, but it worked beautifully. In fact, MHP Geomatics provided a lot of the input which was used to write the first code. The program is user friendly because it has been written to suit the engineering environment. Since then, the program has just gone from strength to strength and we couldn't imagine using anything else," says Dave.

MHP Geomatics was founded in 1979 and has an extensive track record in the field of land management, GIS, Cadastral, Sectional title, Engineering, Topographical, Photogrammetric, Hydrographic and Industrial surveying. "When I joined the organisation in 1984, the business consisted of three surveyors, one draughtsperson and a secretary. Today we have sixty employees and two branches nationally and we are busy every working day of the week. Keeping up with demand is therefore difficult in the midst of critical skills shortages."

Dave is in the rare position to have seen the surveying industry grow over the last twenty years and has noticed an alarming trend. "Our firm has over the years provided opportunities for more than forty students to do their in-service training. Students learn the business and then leave to start their own surveying company or emigrate and in some instances even change profession. To date we have only been able to retain three students who have chosen to remain in the profession."

According to Dave, being a surveyor is not easy. "Many of the terrains that require surveying are completely inaccessible. The team gets transported by helicopter and there is no accommodation, shops or people in sight. It is literally the surveyor against the elements. We spend weeks on site until we reach our destination point and when we arrive home we are completely exhausted and many kilograms lighter," he says with a laugh.
  Strangely enough, is has been projects like the Lesotho Highlands Water Project where the terrain was the most troublesome that has remained memorable. "The project required 100km of precise levelling but due to the cumbersome nature of the terrain, we couldn't do more than one kilometre per day. The project took many months. We would drive up to the nearest kraal and then go on foot. It is therefore vitally important that surveyors are trained how to be hands on." Other projects that have a place of honour in Dave's memory bank include sugar farms in Angola, the Mohale Dam in Lesotho and the SANRAL roads projects from 1996 to date.

"I find that students who enjoy outdoor and wildlife activities are better suited to handle surveying field work. Being chased by an ostrich or encountering a rhino on route should therefore be part of the fun. Our role as surveyors is to provide the first foundation for infrastructure development. That is why the emphasis on quality should never be overlooked. If a dimension, culvert or building is found to be in the wrong place, the consequences can be devastating. Ninety nine percent is therefore not good enough. Calculations and data must be double and triple checked because the finger usually gets pointed to the surveyor if anything goes wrong. It all begins with the surveyor," explains Dave.

Dave's methodology for success in the survey field is two-fold: Passion and Excellence. He is positive about the future of surveying as long as these principles are upheld and advises any aspirant surveyor to live by them. Judging from Dave's own personal success, he is indeed the epitome of what a true surveyor is.


 
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