Ronan Hayes MRICS, FCBC Survey Manager

Everyone knows what surveyors do – right? Well, maybe not. We talk to Ronan Hayes MRICS, FCBC Survey Manager, to find out how the work of the FCBC Surveying Department adds value to the construction of the Queensferry Crossing.

Masters of all they survey

ronan-hayesQ: What does the Surveying Department do? 
A: Before a blow is struck on site, any construction project kicks off with designs laid out in a series of highly detailed technical drawings. It is the surveyor’s job to make sure those on paper or electronic designs are translated accurately into physical reality out there on the construction site. So, on a day-today basis, we work very closely with both the designers and the construction teams, monitoring every stage of construction. The aim is to ensure the finished product is correct and exactly what the client is looking for.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the surveyors? 
A: The principal challenge, I would say, is to check that everything is done 100% right and that all the main elements of the new bridge – foundations, towers, deck, approach viaducts – fit together perfectly according to the design and within agreed tolerances. Any mistakes or inaccuracies in construction can lead to design revisions which, in turn, may result in delays and additional costs. Design revisions can also be required when unforeseen circumstances have to be dealt with. In addition, we share many of the challenges which face everybody else on the Queensferry Crossing project – such as the weather. All our activities on this job are fully exposed to meteorological conditions. There is no hiding from elements such as strong winds, rain, fog and sub-zero temperatures, all of which can impact on our ability to carry out operations accurately and on time.

Q: How do surveyors survey the works? 
A: For centuries, the main tool at the surveyor’s disposal was the theodolite. In the late 20th century, however, we saw the introduction of the “Total Station” which does the same job as a theodolite but uses modern technology to do it quicker and to a greatly increased degree of accuracy. These days, we can measure our work to within 2 millimetres per kilometre. That’s 2 millimetres in a million which really is staggering. Total Stations use digital technology, hand-held computers and Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) to produce such accurate results. We also employ Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in our work, so I suppose you could say there would be no excuse if we were to get something wrong!

Q: What gives you the most satisfaction? 
A: No two days are ever the same on a project of this scale but our focus is firmly on getting things right first time, every time. Surveyors get great job satisfaction from seeing the rapid physical progress being made on the ground. Knowing that we are providing the correct information to enable our construction teams to accurately reproduce the design at every stage makes it all worthwhile.