Gonna Leave a Mark
With a population of nearly 1.5 million and an economy largely driven by Orlando’s many theme parks, Orange County’s growth is steady and impressive. To ensure that developers, engineers, etc., have the tools they need to effectively maintain that growth, the county has been continually expanding its inventory of available control-ready benchmarks. And SSMC has played a huge part in that expansion.
“This company has had a solid relationship with Orange County dating back to the ‘90s,” said Muñoz. “Because of that, and the list of strengths we bring, we’ve been able to work on a variety of projects for them; the 17.1 mile benchmark run is a good example of that. It utilizes all of our disciplines, starting with our SUE group who use ground-penetrating radar equipment to probe the area and ensure there are no underground utilities.”
The process actually begins with SSMC selecting a basic location for each of the 29 monuments — they generally want them to be about ½ mile apart from each other — then working hand in hand with the county to determine a preferred route for the run. With that in place, the survey firm will identify locations in which the two different types of benchmarks can be set.
Determining where the benchmarks were going to be placed was actually one of the main challenges of the Orlando project, said Muñoz, since each marker must be placed in a position that is “invisible” to the general public, but easily locatable for those who need to use them.
“The ‘B’ or rod-type monuments that get driven to refusal are mostly tucked near the edge of the right of way limits,” said Muñoz. “This is a spot the public would generally not notice, but that a surveyor or engineer can find and dig up easily. The ‘C’ disks are usually set in an existing drainage inlet; people walk by them all the time, not knowing what they are for. On a project like this, we tend to alternate between each type of monument to be installed.”
With a site selected, SSMC will put lath stakes in the ground and reach out to Orange County to verify that they approve of the location as well. If, for some reason, the county asks the firm to move it for one reason or another, SSMC will come back out, re-clear another area that the county selected, set the stakes, and have them recheck it. With sites finalized, markers are installed and subsequently verified for location and elevation.
Go the Distance
To deal with the imposing stretch of urban terrain, which they had to cover — roughly 2/3 of a marathon race — as well as to maintain tight constraints, SSMC drew upon the strengths of both GNSS and digital technology. Using a Topcon HiPer VR receiver easily addressed the horizontal demands of the job.
“The HiPer VR allowed us to quickly and accurately set northing and easting coordinates for every the benchmark we set,” said Muñoz. “These highly-accurate coordinates are added to our finished datasheet and will be a lifesaver for any person seeking out these benchmarks. For the vertical element of the process, we turned to our Topcon DL-502 digital level, which really helps us collect quality data more efficiently, more accurately and with less chance of human error.”
He added that, when they first started conducting elevation bench runs for Orange County, several outdated procedures dealing with location and installation were still in place. “Over the past five years, however, working together with the county, we were able to streamline many of those processes,” said Muñoz. “Having a better overall approach, coupled with superior equipment, has made a huge difference.”
Muñoz and SSMC recognize that equipment is only as good as the support backing it. In that regard, SSMC has benefited from a solid, long-term relationship with Lengemann Corp, their Altoona, Florida-based Topcon dealer.
“Lengemann has been outstanding for us,” he said. “There are times when I will unexpectedly need to field an additional crew, leaving us short on gear. I know I can simply text Steve Terry or Mike Woodley, their sales reps, saying I need a base and rover for the week. Not only will they answer promptly — itself, somewhat rare these days — but they will have the instruments to us quickly as well. You can’t put a price on that.”