Feb 27, 2023

Design Matters: Land Survey News | The U.S. Survey Foot is Officially Retired

By Focus Engineering In News No comments

On January 1, 2023, an important change occurred in the standard for land surveying across America. The U.S. governing agencies for land surveying, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey (NGS) officially retired the use of the U.S. survey foot and universally adopted the international survey foot.

 Here’s Why the New Land Survey Rule

The reason for the change? Simply put, consistency. For several years, two definitions of the foot measurement have co-existed: the U.S. Survey foot and the International foot. Both measurements are based on the meter. That’s not the issue. In fact, the U.S. Survey foot has been based on the meter since 1893 and was defined as 1,200 meters divided by 3,937. The international foot (developed in 1933) is 0.3048 meters. The difference is only 1/100th of a foot per mile. Hardly noticeable for short distances and small parcels; but, for longer distances and big parcels or conversion of state plane coordinates from meters to feet can make a huge difference. And the discrepancies have created problems for surveyors and engineers for decades.

Impact to Land Surveys in Utah and Idaho

So, what exactly does this change mean? The new announcement applies to all states nation-wide, including land surveying in Utah and Idaho, the primary geographic areas served by FOCUS Engineering and Surveying. A discussion with the survey leaders at FOCUS–who offer 40+ years of combined land surveying experience–Justin Lundberg, PLS, Survey Department Manager and Evan Wood, PLS,  Sr. Land Surveyor, shared their thoughts.

“It’s very significant”, says Wood. “With the advancements in technology and the forthcoming release of new NGS datum which all GIS and land surveying software is based upon, a consistent measurement nationally and internationally makes sense. It will eliminate confusion and increase accuracy. With everyone on the same system, the approval, submittal, and records process for municipal, state, and federal projects will be much more efficient.”

A Positive Change for Land Surveying, Planning, Engineering, & the Public

FOCUS has state-of-the-art survey equipment, technology, and professionals with the experience to navigate and seamlessly implement the change. And though some clients may be concerned about property boundaries changing, the land survey team at FOCUS Engineering is reassuring.

“Clients need not be concerned about the transition to the international foot. Our process in the field is not going to change—we’ll still measure ground distance using property corners and monuments”, said Lundberg. Wood added, “Using the international foot will resolve scaling factors and knit geographic projections together.”

The bottom line? Says Wood, “Improved data equals better survey results. And that’s a benefit to the public.”

Want to know more? Reach out to our experienced land surveyors, Justin Lundberg, jlundberg@focus-es.com or Evan Wood, ewood@focus-es.com. Sources: NOAA.gov and NIST.gov