Surveying the best buildings in Britain

The Royal Institute of British Architects is gathering tonight to preview the RIBA Stirling Prize 2018 shortlist. The annual awards celebrate the best buildings in the UK, the vast majority of which OS surveys and adds to the master map of Great Britain. We’re wondering if our surveyor Tim Glasswell will complete a hat trick and find he has surveyed the winning building once more…

Tim works in our East of England team and has surveyed two buildings in Cambridge which have previously won the national RIBA Stirling Prize – the Sainsbury’s Laboratory (at the University Botanic Garden) in 2012 and the Accordia development in 2008. From this year’s shortlist, Tim and colleague Howard Boyer, surveyed the Storey’s Field Centre and Eddington Nursery, University of Cambridge.

With house prices and rent already high, and thousands more students and staff expected in the city of Cambridge in the coming years, the University has created a new suburb, to provide affordable accommodation for postgraduates and staff.  As well as housing, there are shops, a school, a health centre, sporting facilities, open spaces, a care home and a hotel.  At the heart of this new ‘North West Cambridge’ development is the ‘Storey’s Field Centre.’ It’s a community centre, providing a range of ‘flexible spaces’ – meetings rooms, studios, kitchens and a large hall suitable for events and concerts.  The northern half of the building is a children’s nursery, associated with the new primary school.  Our team surveyed this in May 2018, and it was officially opened in July.

Storey’s shown in our surveying system

If Tim doesn’t complete his hat trick, the team does have another chance…The 2018 shortlist includes a second building surveyed by the East of England team, Bushey Cemetery, completed by Thomas Watts and Chris Anderson.

Bushey Cemetery in our surveying system

How do our surveyors work?

Our surveyors carry a tablet type computer that is coupled via Bluetooth to a survey-grade Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) unit mounted on a pole, which they use to pinpoint the position of new features or check the position of existing data on the maps.

Our surveyors then plot the new points they are measuring onto the maps on their tablet computers and begin the task of joining them up to reflect the shape of what is actually on the ground in front of them. The points joined up, they then attribute the lines and shapes within the lines to correspond to what they are, for example public road edge, public road, obstructing feature, private garden, building outline and built structure to name a few. This then allows our customers to interrogate our data for their own means.

The tablets our surveyors work with

Once the field surveyor has created the framework, joined the dots and attributed the lines to reflect what is on the ground then the ‘job’ is sent back to the servers at our Southampton head office where it is incorporated into ever-growing 450 million+ features forming the master map of Great Britain by the expert teams there, and a little time later becomes available to the customer.

Good luck to all of the architects shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize, we look forward to learning the winner in November.

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