Main Page · Magazine · LTIs · Links · Upcoming Events ·
Board · Arm History · Prayer Coordinator · Prayer Requests

It was just a site survey

by David Marquardt A.L.S.
Winter 2007

Probably one of the most common projects any surveyor will do in his/her career is a site survey. They may be named something slightly different like as-built plan, plot plan, site plan or something else, but essentially the scope of work covers 3 basic tasks;

  • Determine and confirm the parcel boundaries,
  • Survey everything you see, (and when buried facilities are involved... things you don't see) to those boundaries,
  • Survey in enough ground and facility elevations to determine grades, cuts/fills or slab elevations, general topography as needed.

    Like anything, depending on the scope of the specific project it can go from the very simple to the extremely detailed...and you usually get questions from the project engineer..."You're charging me that much for THIS???" Well maybe that happens sometimes, but don't sell yourself short...a well done site survey is a successful foundation to any engineering project. It is a shame that many surveyors don't get to see the finished product or the product as it is being finished. I recently participated in one where I know I will get that chance. It's about 5534 Km (3459 miles) from where I call home, Latitude118d 28'2I.4" N, Longitude 72d 16' 19.9" W for you Google Earth aficionados, in a place near Fort Jacques, the mountains just south of Port-au-Prince.

    Maybe 1 should go back a little bit here... October, 2006 while at a fundraising dinner here in Calgary for an orphanage in Haiti called God's Littlest Angels, (, I was talking to the directors of the orphanage John and Dixie Bickel. They made it known to me that the costs, logistics, and quality of caring for 180 orphans/abandoned children in 3 large houses, (currently being rented), were getting to the point where they would be better off to build their own complex. The orphanage is one of the best run in Haiti and is like a mini children's hospital, complete with donated ICU equipment. I suggested they get in touch with a few colleagues at EMiCanada when that time came. At the time they had their eye on a piece of land...and to make an already incredible story short, they raised the money by last December to purchase the land and made an application to EMi for charitable engineering work.

    A bit about Emi: Engineering Ministries International - Like Engineers/Doctors Without Borders, it is a non-denominational, non-profit, Christian-based organization of professional engineers, architects, and technicians from all walks and all countries, who have made a choice to use their skills and their God given talents for the betterment of mankind all over the world. With over 700 projects to date in 75 different countries (through EMI-lnternational, based in Colorado Springs, USA)... hospitals, churches, orphanages, and schools in places like Manila, Thailand, Uganda, India, Ukraine, and Haiti... in some of the worst areas known to man...this group of men and women have pooled their time and talents to create small miracles, and to give a bit of hope to someone, somewhere, at their own expense.

    That is what a "mission" is really all about. I always thought in order to be of any "use" to mankind to do these things, you should be a doctor or a nurse or a Mother Theresa, one of incredible faith and courage...not a native Alberta-boy, U of A, SAITgrad-turned Land Surveyor. As I have discovered over the last few years, EMi is very well organized and the safety of their full-time staff and volunteers is of paramount importance, wherever in the world they may be.

    Preparing for this trip was an exercise in team organization for our team leader Kevin Weins who looked after accommodations, flights, security details and incidentals for the orphanage we were working for. For us team members as volunteers, it was the usual passports, shots (typhoid, malaria, hepatitis A and B), and oh yes our equipment and personal gear. For a surveyor with the current baggage restrictions, to get all your survey equipment and personal stuff into 2 bags with a maximum weight of 50 Ibs each is a challenge. Suggestion?...(my surveyor colleagues will love this one!)...find an engineer who is travelling light and give him an extra bag to carry...the heavier one of course! In all seriousness that indeed is what was done, but for a different reason... approximately an extra 20 to 30lbs of my baggage weight was in the form of vitamins, cough syrups, antibiotics and other supplies, people had donated for the orphanage. I can't comment on the legality of this, but sometimes you try to do what your heart says is right and pray it works out...this time it did.

    Saturday May 26 was arrival day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti...42C and 95% humidity on the tarmac. Eight years ago to day, when I was first there, the weather was the same, but the atmosphere was a lot different. The shanty town that was within 30m of the edge of the runway was now was the stench. The decrepit airport itself was no longer that, but a rather nice place to land, complete with a Caribbean band...and the washrooms were no longer a health hazard. The mass of poverty stricken humanity that once surround us in the airport parking lot asking to carry our bags for money or wanting to sell us stuff, was now on the other side of a newer fence, with security patrols and lot fewer in number. The United Nations has a very visible presence since the ousting of Aristide a few years ago and these first glance changes are noticeable, but as I found out, looking a little deeper, not that much else has changed in Haiti.

    On Sunday there was a service at a local Church near our guest house quarters in an area called Petionville, and our first trip to the site to scout. Monday we got down to business. As usual, the survey party was on the road to the site by 7 am. The site itself was at an elevation of about 131 m about 2 Km from where we were staying but 8 Km by road and about I0 Km from the ocean. Away from Port-au-Prince, Haiti is hilly, mountainous but beautiful; the roads are narrow, steep, rough, congested and it is an exercise in driving skill and patience to get anywhere. Throw in a typical torrential downpour, and there are many roads you pick your times to travel on, otherwise you may end up a twisted heap of metal. The site survey was completed in 3 mornings' work...the afternoons were downpours when we processed everything from laptops or took a shower in the tropical rainstorms. Finishing up the computer work on the site survey, it was a pleasure to watch my engineer/architect teammates do their magic creating preliminary designs for several buildings, the main orphanage building (baby and toddler sections with an ICU), nannies dorm, a school, a volunteer's residence, a director's residence, maintenance and mechanical building, and last but not least a chapel. As well, soils and ground water testing, and designs for water, storm, and septic were created. The plans still have to be finalized and many details worked out, but the footprint is all there. I could go on about technical details that would interest a few, but the real story here is that someone has a vision to help children in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and that we as a team were just a small part of that.

    When the work was done, spending time in the orphanage, helping the nannies, playing with the babies and toddlers, showed us the purpose of why we were here. In the two weeks centered around our arrival and departure...3 children went back to be with their Maker...5 more were taken in for . That is life in Haiti and in an orphanage. I wish I had the room here to tell you the stories of some of the kids, like little Farrah, James, Jenny, and Miranda and so many play with them, to watch them, to rock them to sleep...your emotional factor gets quite a workout. The fact that many of them have made it this far in their short difficult lives and frail bodies is truly amazing. I can't even begin to fathom what life is like for the 10 to 20,000 kids that roam the streets of Port-au-Prince daily. We have it so good here in Canada... our families, our homes, our jobs, our clean air, and water and open spaces... our freedom. I hope this makes you wonder. Yes, was just a site survey, not really all that much different than the hundreds I've done before...but definitely one with a purpose. Feel free to check out this link :'s a 15 minute video where the pictures of this project speak far better than I could ever hope to write.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and view. If something like this interests you or someone you know, by all means drop me an email...! will introduce you to some great people.


  • Arrowback to top of page
    Anglicans for Renewal
    Anglican Renewal Ministries