The following was first published in the February 2006 edition of the ASHRAE Ottawa Valley Chapter Capital Communiqué.
I have been surveying mechanical/electrical systems for twenty years now, and I seem to have spent much of that time on top of a ladder with my head stuck between a 24×48″ opening. This has afforded me a vast amount of somewhat useless information that I will attempt to put into words here. Following is the Rodders CAS Top Ten Surveying Equipment List:
- The first thing on the list is a high-quality clipboard. I use one made of aluminum that was purchased for me from Lee Valley Tools, and besides the fact that it looks sexy, it also has a handy integrated storage box that can store many of the things listed below. It should be light, make excessive noise when dropped, and not be too expensive.
- An absolute must is letter size photocopies or mini-plots of the survey area, typically an office or Lab space. These should be plotted at 1:50 – surveys are virtually useless at 1:100 unless you don’t care about accuracy. Plot out as many as will be required (including spares) between coffee breaks and store them in the handy storage box – refer to item 1.
- Our goal in this life is to make one self look as much like a geek as possible. Therefore I make use of a “headlight” flashlight which generally straps around my enormous head and likens me to a coal-miner. It is absolutely paramount that this flashlight is of high quality with an adjustable beam. This apparatus of course keeps my hands free to hold item 1. Always have replacement bulbs handy.
- Item 3 leads me to state the importance of a large supply of freshly charged batteries. Flashlights drink battery power like they are manufactured by the battery companies. Wait a minute – my headlight says Rayovac on it!
- You simply must have a high quality tape measure on your person. Don’t even think about those flimsy 1/2″ wide jobbies – they are rubbish. It should be at least 25′ in length and 1″ wide. And don’t believe it when the manufacturer states 20′ stand-out – that’s rubbish too. When you have your tape, purchase a Magneto belt clip. One minute the tape is on your belt, the next it is in your hand, no messing. Your head is above a ceiling tile, you are holding item 1, your world is bright due to item 3. You don’t want to fumble with item 5.
- Surveying with pens is for perfect people. I am not perfect (not yet anyway). Surveying with 0.7 and 0.5 projecting pencils is the way to go. Keep plenty of spare leads in item 1. You will drop the pencils. Purchase Staedtler Mars Plastic erasers; carry two, both in item 1. These erasers are typically left above ceilings.
- You will need a straight edge for making neat survey sketches on those letter size photocopies. This straight edge should preferably be a clear plastic ruler with both imperial and metric graduations. Clear plastic because you can see the lines you have already drawn through the ruler. Store the ruler in item 1.
- A digital camera is a must. When you walk into an office or Lab space with a digital camera you can create all kinds of interest from those flighty ladies messing with test tubes. Keep the camera in a belt-pouch with a zip top. This adds to your general geeky appearance. The odd grenade and a web-belt will also increase the effect. See item 4.
- Carry a ladder. Preferably one that will get you above a standard 9 foot ceiling. If you are lucky, the nice on-site guys will let you borrow one. In which case a standard 4 foot step-ladder is always handy – the top makes a superb tabletop for item 1 when you are in a steamy boiler room with no clean surfaces.
- Maintain a healthy Mojo. That is, be confident at all times in your ability, and proceed with purpose. Enter rooms to be surveyed with a respectful look on your face, and state clearly what your intentions are. I like the old stand-by “Hi there, I am here to check your pipes”. That always gets them. Another thing people love is when you simply stand in the middle of the room and gaze up at the ceiling as if there is something important happening up there (when there isn’t).
What to do with all of this equipment? That’s the subject of a future editorial.