The purpose of a field survey is to generate architectural drawings such as floor plans, elevations, sections and details.  A field survey is to be used as the backgrounds for Area Calculations, New Design or As-Built documentation.

Before you start a survey…

Review the contract and define scope of work as well as available drawings, PDFs, CAD or hard copies.  Also, identify areas to be surveyed and potential design issues and allocate available hours for field verification and for CAD input. Finally schedule field verification – coordinate with the building engineer and/or client.


A measuring team should minimally consist of TWO people. When drawing a large or complex structure, or when more people are involved the most efficient approach is to “divide and conquer” with multiple teams breaking up the work by floor, wing, or elevation. A supervisor, instructor or project leader should coordinate the multiple efforts to provide consistency and quality control.

Be safe!

Regardless of the size, type, or condition of the building, all participants on a survey documentation project should adhere to the standards and regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This can be as simple as bringing along a flashlight or making sure to wear durable hiking shoes or steel-toed boots, or as demanding as wearing hard hats and respirators.  Don’t wear high heels to a field survey!

Dress comfortably.  Remember that the space to survey may not be air conditioned; it could be very cold or very hot. Be prepared!

Legibility is important. Everyone on a team should be able to read everyone else’s field notes.

An accurate field survey and input process will facilitate the design phase, minimizing errors, omissions and construction issues.

We have compiled a checklist for your use.  Click here to download a pdf of the checklist.

A complete field survey will result in a better design, a profitable job; minimum RFI’s and change orders, and above all, A SATISFIED CLIENT!

Written by: Mauricio Mares-Poletti, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP – Senior Manager at DBI Architects, Inc.