Surveying Beyond Boundaries: A Collection of BIA Survey Team's Day-to-Day

“Surveying beyond boundaries” is the mantra of the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors, the state-wide professional organization of individuals interested in the practice of land surveying. Recent projects undertaken by our survey department illustrate the truth of that phrase.


It was no surprise for passers-by to see ground-level survey crews from Barry Isett & Associates when construction began at 645 Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA, the site of the 11-story Two City Center office building being built by North Star Construction Management, Inc. for Center City Investment Corporation.  During the first phase of construction, BIA surveyors conducted construction stake out surveys for site improvements, building foundations, micro piles and excavations for steel columns. They even located the optimal site for the huge construction crane.

Rising behind the Soliders and Sailors Monument, Two City Center is in the heart of Allentown’s downtown.But as the building rose, what were those surveyors doing up in the superstructure?  Surveyors’ talents are used to verify the vertical integrity of a building. During steel erection, BIA set centerlines for columns and confirmed that once set, the columns were plumb.  Chief Surveyor Tim Sheridan, PLS, and staff developed a stake out plan for the placement of each anchor bolt that connects the framework then conducted on-site surveys to indicate bolt location for the steel erector.  Survey control points are placed for the baseline of each floor; wall elevation plans are prepared.  As-built plans are created for each phase upon completion, plumbness is established for both the column framework and building’s exterior panels.  Surveys are used to affirm the location of interior elements like the stair tower and elevator tower.  Survey continued through the construction of the remaining upper floors. 


Long before the 2013 US Open came to the Merion Golf Club in June, BIA played a role in planning the event.  In September 2012 the United States Golf Association engaged BIA to conduct a topographic survey of sections of the course, including flood plain elevations for a 100-year storm, a prudent step considering the storms at the start of the tournament.  BIA’s survey was the basis for a site plan to locate a multitude of hospitality and sponsor tents as well as fences and crowd control devices.  The project was managed from our Phoenixville office under the direction of Robb Beers, PLS.


The ragged wall of 612 Hamilton Street can be seen just beyond Zion Reformed Lutheran Church.Another atypical survey project is in progress at 612 Hamilton Street.  BIA survey crews positioned on the street, the roof of historic Zion Reformed Lutheran Church, and Two City Center aimed their instruments at the west wall of the former Schoen’s Furniture Store which is being redeveloped by Charles Street Capital as a restaurant and offices. The exposed wall of the six-story brick structure is very uneven, with remnants of masonry panels clinging to large areas and sections of brick gouged out, reflecting  ghost images of a long-gone next-door building. While on a project tour of the downtown, BIA’s Bob Cox, PE, PLS, realized that the wall of the historic building would make façade reconstruction a challenge.  He suggested to Shane Patrick Associates, the project’s construction firm, that a topographic survey of the wall would be very useful to the architect.  The end product of the survey will be a 3-D model of the wall to create a basis for the design of wall panels. A three-dimensional model is also being created for the elevator shaft using data collected by a laser level with concurrent vertical and horizontal output.  Chief Surveyor Tim Sheridan, PLS, planned and managed the survey while Dawn Stasiw, a senior project technician in the survey department, is instrumental in developing the models. 


Our final story about the BIA survey department was reported in late June by The Express Times.  Surveyors Dan David and Brian Gougler were working on the campus of Lafayette College when a woman approached looking for help. She had spotted a newborn deer along College Drive and feared for its safety.  Dan and Brian moved the baby up the hill away from traffic in hopes it would be found by its mother.  If the mother didn’t turn up, Dan thought he would take the baby to his farm where his nieces and nephews could care for it until it was strong enough to return to the wild.  After completing their surveys, Dan and Brian went back to where they left the deer.  To their surprise there was a second newborn fawn and a crowd of college security guards and Easton police officers who had contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission and were keeping an eye on the deer until a commission agent could arrive.  Content that their erstwhile charges would be well cared for, Dan and Brian returned to the office to finish up their workday.

Whether on the ground or high above the city streets, BIA surveyors demonstrate professionalism, creativity and, when circumstances dictate, compassion. Congratulations to a great team! 

Lower Merion School District Awarded USDOE Green Ribbon School

The Lower Merion School District was one of just 14 school districts nationwide to be honored at a June ceremony organized by the United States Department of Education in celebration of the first-ever Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award program. The only district to be so honored in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Lower Merion was selected for its exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics, STEM, and green career pathways. BIA has been the District’s Engineer of Record since 2004, and was the site/civil engineer in the design of Harriton High School and Lower Merion High School, both of which were designed to achieve LEED certification by KCBA Architects. 


Martin Guitar Distribution Center Presented with CRED Green Building Award

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber Commerce presented the 2013 Commercial Real Estate Development (CRED) Green Building Award to the Martin Guitar Distribution Center in Forks Township.  C.F. Martin & Company, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of acoustic guitars, had acquired a 24,000 SF industrial building formerly known as the Famous Smoke Shop, which specialized in cigars. The building was renovated and repurposed, achieving LEED certification. BIA’s Bob Korp, AICP, LEED AP, provided LEED consultation to Ondra-Huyett Associates, the construction firm responsible for the building renovations.

Ben Franklin TechVentures Accredited A USGBC LEED Gold Certified Laboratory

The building expansion of Ben Franklin TechVentures, located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus, achieved gold honors under the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for new construction. During the June celebration held in the Lutron Lobby of the building, Janet Milkman, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council said “TechVentures is the first LEED Gold certified laboratory in the Lehigh Valley, which is important because labs can be more difficult to certify. TechVentures is the largest building to achieve LEED certification in Bethlehem since 2011, and it received the most points for any LEED NC 2.2 project in Bethlehem.”  Architectural design was by Spillman Farmer Architects; Barry Isett & Associates was the site/civil and structural engineer.  BIA also provided survey and environmental services.  Construction was by Allied Building Corporation.


Beacon Power Set to Roll in Fall 2013

An innovative 53 million dollar energy project under construction at Humboldt Industrial Park North, Hazle Township, Luzerne County was dedicated in June.  Only the second installation of its type in the US, the facility—owned and operated by Beacon Power/Hazle Spindle LLC—will use fly-wheel technology to store excess electricity taken from the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland grid and then return it to the grid at periods of high demand.  The project commencement ceremony marked the installation of the first of 200 flywheels on the nine-acre site where 20 megawatt facilities will store and release power back onto the grid; when construction is complete, each of the flywheels will be operational within the visible blue enclosures onsite.  Beacon Power, located in Tyngsboro, MA, retained BIA to provide site design and permitting, conduct environmental  and survey services, and provide structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering services.

Flywheel storage systems are designed to smooth out the peaks and valleys in the power system to help grid operators meet fluctuating demand.  According to Barry Britts, President and CEO of Beacon Power LLC, the flywheel system will be linked to the power grid to instantaneously store power or return it to the grid.  State and local dignitaries were joined at the commencement by Dr. Imre Gyuk, U.S. Department of Energy, who declared that flywheel technology is more efficient in handling grid power changes than fossil fuel electric generation plants. The Beacon storage system can discharge 20 megawatts of electricity into the grid at a moment's notice - the equivalent of a burst of energy from a small power plant. According to State Sen. John Yudichak, the project will return $4 million in savings to Pennsylvania utility consumers.  George J. Hayden Inc. is the general contractor for the project.