Are you thinking about submitting a development application (DA) to your local council? One of the first steps you’ll probably need to take is to obtain the services of a surveyor. This is necessary to accurately map all existing structure, contours, landscape elements and services on and around your home. Maybe you already have a survey from a previous owner or one that you commissioned previously. This may be enough, but unless the survey was undertaken in the last year or so it’s likely that you’ll need to have it updated before going any further.
If you’re employing a design professional to assist you, he or she will most likely brief the surveyor on your behalf, setting out in a letter what elements need to be surveyed and what data collected. The list is likely to range from the footprint of the existing buildings on the site, their roof heights and floor levels, to locations of trees and retaining walls as well as information about neighbouring sites. The latter can assist you with arguments about proposed heights and setbacks. It’s a good idea to locate neighbouring windows and outdoor areas so you can consider privacy and overlooking issues from an early stage.
It is also usually necessary for a surveyor to collect information about elements on surrounding public footpaths and roads, such as trees and power poles, as these must be taken into account during design -“ especially if you are re-landscaping your front garden or changing the driveway in some way. Controversial DA proposals may require a streetscape elevation showing how the proposal sits amongst its neighbours. Sometimes council will even request a scale model. It is impossible to do this accurately without referring to a current professionally executed survey.
If your project is an alteration or addition to an existing house your surveyor can accurately measure key elements to ensure the design fits in with existing structure. Key items are roof ridge heights, external corners, eaves and gutter heights and floor levels. It is also crucial to map what are known as spot levels around the house as these will determine how high your roof can be. Most councils define their imposed height limits as height above existing ground level so if you’re planning an upstairs addition or modification to your roof this information is crucial. This data also allows your designer to draw accurately the requisite cross-sections through the site to form part of your DA documentation.
Your surveyor can issue the final drawings as a hard copy which council will want to refer to when they assess your DA and you can keep for future reference. They can also usually provide electronic (CAD) versions to your design professional to assist in the design and documentation process. A survey will cost between $500 and $2,000 for an average-sized home site depending on size and information required. You can contact the Institute of Surveyors Australia for more information or consult their website at www.isansw.org.au.