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How We Execute A Multi-Site “Pilot” As-Built Survey

The “Pilot” As-Built Survey – The Critical Step in a Multi-Site As-Built Survey Program

Let’s talk about “Multi-Site” As-Built Survey programs. These are multi-location remodel programs where dozens or hundreds of locations need to be surveyed and drafted in preparation for remodel, rebranding, or expansion initiatives – usually for large, national retail or quick service restaurant (QSR) brands. With many Multi-Site programs completed for national brands over the years, PPM has learned a lot about the process from both the client end and the surveying end. You won’t find much information on the internet about this type of work, so we thought we’d shed some light on the subject and the first important step in the process to ensure success.

Before we dive in, there are a few more things you may want to know. To learn more about what a Multi-Site program is: including clients, typical projects, scope of work, challenges, etc., you can get more information here. To understand the steps we take to plan a program of this magnitude, including assessing objectives, gathering necessary information, creating a team, and more, check out our blog here.

In this article, let’s focus on a specific component of the Multi-Site program that is critical to the overall success of large-scale programs – the “pilot” survey.

What is an As-Built “Pilot” Survey?

A pilot survey is when you complete an As-Built plan for the first location(s) on the client’s list.  The pilot survey takes place after you have finished the initial planning for a new program, but before you are ready to go live with a full launch. The purpose of a pilot survey is twofold:

  1. It allows the survey company to see for themselves what the real conditions and challenges will be – both in the field and post-survey – for the program. This will help with the 2nd round of planning.
  2. To create, revise and confirm a Scope of Work with the client. This will be the actual “deliverable” template that is followed for the remainder of the program.

Sometimes we complete a single pilot survey, and other times we might perform as many as 5 in order to complete these 2 goals.  The entire process usually takes about 2-3 weeks,

How does an As-Built “Pilot” Survey work?

  1. Preparation. To get ready for the pilot survey(s) we do a full review of the Scope of Work and any additional client communication to determine exactly what plans we should draw, items to include, and other information to gather. We also consider any travel arrangements, scheduling requirements, or special equipment needed.
  2. Surveying.  There are a few additional things to consider when surveying for a pilot program:
    • Capture more information than you think you need.  This is good practice in general, but with a pilot particularly you really want to show the client more so that they can determine what is truly needed.
    • Consider any site conditions which may impact your ability to efficiently perform the surveys on a large scale, such as employees, customers, hours of operation, etc.
    • Compile a list of questions for the client as you survey.  The pilot survey is the chance to get these questions answered so that everything can be settled before the full program launch.
  3. Delivery to Client. Complete and deliver the survey(s) to the client, along with notes and questions.  Over the next few days there should be a lot of back and forth with the client about any questions, revisions to make, information to include/omit.  We like to schedule a full “Scope Review” call with the client to hash out any remaining questions or requests.
  4. Final Scope Confirmation. This is where both parties agree that the As-Built Survey Deliverable created in the pilot(s) is ready.  All future surveys for the remainder of the program will be based on that Deliverable.
  5. Update Program Documents. This is an internal step for the surveying company, to get all necessary training and workflow documents ready for the program rollout, including:
    • Survey Scope of Work and Itemized Checklist
    • Survey Operations manual
    • AutoCAD template / CAD standards
    • Other Training documents and/or videos
  6. Update Program Fulfillment Plan.  This was discussed in a prior blog post, and includes things like a program timeline, scheduling procedures, etc..

Once the pilot is complete you and your team along with your As-Built Survey partner are ready to get started on the full program rollout, surveying as many as 50 or more locations each week for the remainder of the program. At PPM, we handle the scheduling, so your team can focus on what you do best. To learn more about the entire As-Built Survey process for Multi-Site programs, visit us here.

About PPM

At PPM, our goal is to help set you and your Multi-Site remodel, rebrand, or expansion program up for success from the start. While we are dedicated to our tried-and-true process and deliver consistently accurate plans, success is not just in the numbers – it’s a feeling of trust, confidence, ownership and teamwork. Our team is committed to Core Values that drive our business and our clients’ success. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

Have an upcoming Multi-Site program or remodel project we can assist with?

Interested in learning more about our Multi-Site As-Built Survey process?

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LA Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance got you feeling some “March Madness”?

What Is A Soft-Story Retrofit?

LA Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance

Yesterday was the start of the annual NCAA college basketball tournament, known as “March Madness” to most basketball fans and casual observers alike.  Sadly, my team, the California Golden Bears, didn’t make it to “The Dance” this year.  Although on the other hand, at least that means I probably have a better chance of winning the office bracket pool, because I didn’t have to (foolishly) choose them to win the whole thing. Gonzaga is my choice, in case you are wondering…

Here at Precision Property Measurements, our As-Built surveying company in Long Beach, we have started to get some inquiries from local apartment building owners asking about the recently passed “Soft-Story” Retrofit Ordinance in Los Angeles.  Understandably, a lot of folks are confused about the law, and unsure of what they need to do to comply.  I guess you could say these apartment owners are feeling their own version of March Madness as they grapple with the implications of complying with this mandatory new ordinance.

The Los Angeles Soft Story Retrofit program (Ordinance 183893 and 184081) is intended to reduce possible structural deficiencies in existing multi-story apartment buildings.  These deficiencies could possibly result in major damage and injuries during or after an earthquake in Southern California.  The ordinance follows an almost identical program passed by the city of San Francisco a few years ago.  To qualify under the mandate, a building would need to meet the following criteria:

  • Consist of 2 or more stories of wood frame construction
  • Be built under building code standards enacted before January 1st, 1978
  • Contain ground floor parking or other similar open floor space.

It is estimated that approximately 13,500 buildings in Los Angeles meet these criteria, and will likely need seismic strengthening under the Soft Story Ordinance.  Starting in May of 2016, the city began sending Orders to Comply to the owners of these affected buildings.  Based on the date that the Order to Company is received, the building owner must comply with the ordinance within the following time limits:

  • Within 2 years:  Submit proof or a previous retrofit, or plans to retrofit or demolish
  • Within 3.5 years:  Obtain permit to start construction or demolition
  • Within 7 years:  Complete construction

So for many apartment building owners, the clock is already ticking to comply with the Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance.

If you are a building owner of one or more of the targeted buildings, PPM can help.  Through our Bay Area office, we have already been a trusted As-Built partner on over 100 Soft-Story Retrofit projects in San Francisco, so we are familiar with the process.  We measure existing buildings and create “As-Built” drawings, which depict the existing conditions.  As-Built plans are a required part of the permitting and inspection process.  We also partner with several highly qualified Structural Engineering firms throughout Southern California, who can take a lead role in guiding you through the entire process including compliance, permitting, construction, etc…

Please CONTACT US if you want to learn more about how we can help.  Now back to basketball!

1080 670 Andy McFarland

5 Things You Must Nail for a Smooth Multi-Site As-Built Survey Program

Key Elements to Managing a Multi-Site As-Built Survey Program

Multi-Site As-Built surveys for national brands are the first, and one of the most important steps in kicking off your brand’s multi-location expansion, rebranding, or remodel initiatives. These survey programs can involve hundreds or even thousands of locations across the country, where each As-Built survey needs to be individually scheduled, tracked, completed and delivered to a uniform standard of deliverable within a specified timeline. The sheer pace of such a program, sometimes requiring completion and delivery of as many as 50 locations per week, can easily cause things to run off track – a potentially spectacular fail with so much at stake for the client.

To successfully run a site survey program like this requires a heightened level of project management and coordination, which very few companies are able to do well.  At PPM, we think that Multi Site As-Built program management is one of our core competencies, thanks to our longtime focus on workflow processes, as well as experience completing over 19,000 surveys over the past 18 years. Here are the top 5 things we focus on when we are managing a Multi-Site As-Built survey program:

1. Client Communication

This is the top requirement that our clients have for us when we start a new program, so it is #1 for a reason. Our clients deserve to know the status of all locations and remain abreast of the progress. In the rare case that a site visit were to have complications, our team is sure to communicate this immediately to remedy the issue.

In the beginning of every program, we ask the client about their preferred method of receiving general updates and urgent alerts, along with frequency. We typically like to set up a weekly check-in call to exchange direct status updates, answer questions, discuss deliverable feedback, address any issues should they arise, and do a general check-in.

2. Scheduling

The scheduling logistics can make or break a program. The ideal scenario that leads to the best result is when we are able to obtain a list of ALL program locations prior to full rollout.  It’s even better if the client passes along a general order of priority – whether it’s regional, by franchisee, or any other parameter.  This allows us to strategize our approach in the most efficient way possible.

When we get a list of locations we map them all out, and within minutes can see where we have direct coverage, indirect coverage, or perhaps no coverage (such as North Dakota) in which case our team will get to work finding a resource in that area. Next, we can begin planning our Pilot Program and pairing locations with qualified surveyors.

3. Tracking / Reporting

Our entire Program Management Team has direct program metrics and targets based on the Client/Program needs, that are monitored closely to ensure we’re always on the right track.

We use a combination of our internal program management software that houses all the data along with an external platform that transforms this data into easily digestible charts/graphs. These allow us to see, at a glance, how many and which locations are…

      1. Upcoming to be surveyed
      2. Coming in from surveyors
      3. In the drafting phase
      4. Due to the Client
      5. Revisions, if any
      6. …and almost anything else we might need to track for a specific program.

Program Tracking Dashboard

4. Teamwork

A large, nationwide As-Built survey program can have as many as 50+ people involved, so it truly does require exceptional teamwork and coordination to execute successfully. Here’s a few of the people directly involved on each individual survey:

      1. Program Manager – Manages the program and is responsible for overall success of the program as defined by client satisfaction.
      2. Assistant Program Manager – Responsible for scheduling, invoicing, surveyor coordination and status, file intake, and a million other catch-all items!
      3. Production Lead – Responsible for coordinating our internal drafting and preparation of our final deliverable package. Also helps with initial training and onboarding of surveyors as well as our internal drafters.
      4. Surveyors – Perform all field work on location.
      5. CAD Drafter – CAD/Deliverable setup and final packaging.
      6. Quality Assurance Specialist – Performs quality assurance by checking each location’s measurements and verifies the scope of work and client specifications are met prior to delivery.

5. Flexibility

We love it when things go as planned, but are always prepared to make adjustments or contingency plans when the inevitable happens – client needs may change, weather implications, access issues, or, for example, a franchisee who is worried about impact to the flow of business. We’ve tackled it all and are dedicated to ensuring happy clients, a smooth process, and assuring all businesses are able to flow as normal.


There are many moving parts to national As-Built site survey programs, but we know that getting these 5 elements right ensures we’re in sync with our client and the franchise owners teeing all parties up for a smooth rebrand, expansion, or remodel – whatever the project may be.

To learn more about how we manage large, Multi-Site programs, visit our process page. Check out how we start with our signature pilot program to ensure the scope of work and template is exactly what your team needs before kicking off the nationwide program where we’re able to measure 40-50 locations per week.

“We love your project management, attention to detail and quick mobilization.”

– Jonathan Tsao | TSAO Design Group, San Francisco, CA

Do you have an upcoming Multi-Site program we can assist with?

Interested in learning more about our Multi-Site As-Built Survey process?

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Measuring Your House For Renovation – Step 1

Details On How To Make An As-Built Home Survey- Step 1

One of the tough things about owning an As-Built measuring company is that almost nobody knows what As-Built measuring is!  So I am constantly trying to explain to friends, family and new people that I meet what it is that we do.  But… one of the cool things about owning an As-Built measuring company is that occasionally these same friends and family actually need our services when they are planning a remodel, and their architect asks them for As-Built plans.   So that gives me a chance to show them what we do, and as a pleasant side effect, to feel good about the fact that I have learned a skill which can sometimes be of use to others.

I had just such an opportunity come up last month when I was on a vacation with my family on the East Coast.  We stayed several days with a high school friend and his family, and before we came out he told me that they were planning to remodel a bathroom in their house in Connecticut.  Their interior designer needed an As-Built drawing of the area, but they didn’t have any, and she was going to charge them extra to create them herself since it was over 100 miles away from her office.  I was only too happy to pack a few extra tools in my suitcase so that I could help my friend (and it was the least I could do for a family that was hosting us for almost a week!)

The subject house – nice yard huh?

Admittedly I was a little rusty – I’ve personally measured over a thousand buildings but probably less than 10 in the last 3-4 years.  Plus, I didn’t bring the fancy equipment that our professional surveyors would have with them on a paid project.  So I went “old school” with a few basic tools and some tried and true techniques that I first started using in 2002.  The final plans, if I do say so myself, came out perfectly.  Here’s how I did it:

Every As-Built surveying project has 3 basic parts:

  1. Preparation
  2. Measuring
  3. Drafting

With this article I will talk about #1:  Preparation.  As with most tasks, great preparation is the key to great execution.  Here are a few things to think about when getting ready to measure a house:

  1. Get the right tools. You will need a clipboard, paper (graph paper is best), writing utensils (I suggest mechanical pencil, erasable pen, and multi-color pen – more on that below), and measuring device.  Tape measure will work just fine, but if you plan to do this somewhat frequently, invest a couple hundred dollars in a laser measuring device.


Basic surveying toolkit – laser and toolbelt optional

  1. Figure out your Notation System. You want to be able to read your measurements right?  A little bit of planning here will go a long way in Step 3 – Drafting.  You don’t necessarily need all these things just to measure one house, but they sure will help in the long run.  Here’s a few tips:
    • For Units, use inch/decimal or feet/decimal.  Easier to write and to type into a CAD program. I like inch/decimal, and I round to the nearest tenth of an inch, so for example I would write a measurement of 10’-65/8 as 126.6
    • If some of your numbers look similar, alter them so you can tell them apart. When I am working fast, for example, my “0” and “6” can look the same, so I always make a diagonal slash through the “0” so it never gets mixed up.
    • Write all of the numbers and labels in the same orientation. Do not rotate the clipboard while measuring.
    • Figure out which writing utensils you want to use, and for what. If necessary you can do everything in pencil, but that makes it tougher to see what’s what when you are trying to draft it.  I use pencil for all measurements, erasable blue pen for all structural features (walls, windows, doors etc…), and multi-colored pen for built-ins and other features (black for cabinetry, red for electrical, green for ceiling elements).
  2. Confirm scope of work. Confirm what you need to show on the final plans.  Which areas of the structure, which items to include, which plans (Floor Plans, Elevations, Electrical, etc..)
  3. Do a walkthrough. Prior to sketching or measuring anything, walk through the entire building, inside and out, to get a sense for the configuration/layout, structural elements, areas of focus, etc… This will help greatly with the final step, which is to…
  4. Plan your measuring Strategy. How do you plan to “attack” the measurements.  This includes questions like:
    • Where will you start? How will you proceed through the building?
    • Which way will you orient the sketches?
    • How many sheets will you need? Are you going to fit everything onto 1 sheet or break it up into multiple to allow for more space?
    • Are there any areas of concern such as tricky wall angles, complex features, hard to reach spaces? How will you measure these items?

With your Preparation completed, you should be in good shape to start Step 2 – Measuring the house.  In my next article a week from now, I’ll run through some helpful tips for measuring a house as accurately and efficiently as possible using pad and paper.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

1024 683 Andy McFarland

Should you outsource your As-Built surveys?

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your As-Built Surveys

For many years, it has been common practice in the architectural community to outsource related professional services such as structural calculations, interior design, and model development to other firms. But for one reason or the other, As-Built drawings have not reached the same level of ubiquity as a stand-alone service. In simple terms, an As-Built Drawing is a plan that depicts the current dimensions and condition of a property.

An As-Built plan should accurately reflect the way the building was originally built, plus any changes that may have occurred on the property to date.  But an As-Built drawing is NOT a design drawing – it will not reflect any planned changes or remodels to the building.  That is why you say the drawing is “As-Built”.

Who Needs As-Built Plans?

As-Built drawings are an essential starting point for ANY remodel project on a residential or commercial property.  In order to create a new design and construction drawings, you must first know the exact layout and conditions of the structure you are working with.  Therefore, As-Built plans are most commonly used in the following industries:


It all starts with the architect, at the earliest phases of the design process.  Architects are the single biggest users of As-Built drawings. Also related to architecture would be interior designers, contractors, and other property consultants that use the plans for the same purpose.

Real Estate:

As-Built drawings enhance marketing plans by providing prospective customers with a realistic view of a property which makes the use of such drawings quite important to real-estate agents and homeowners marketing properties. The plans can also be used to confirm Square Footage, do space planning, and more.

Facilities Management:

For very large buildings or for companies with extensive real-estate assets, As-Built plans are a critical tool for the continual assessment and management of their physical portfolio.

Objections Towards Outsourcing As-Built Surveys

In some local geographic markets such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is quite common amongst the architecture community to outsource their As-Built surveying to a specialized independent firm.  These architects have realized the benefits that come from working with a professional measuring company that can create an As-Built plan more accurately and quickly than they could do themselves. However in other markets such as Seattle, there is a much greater resistance towards the outsourcing of As-Built services.

Objections include:

Relinquishing Control:

Many architects find it difficult to relinquish control of any part of their design process due to fear that the service provider could negatively affect the project.

Loss of Billable Hours:

Some architects rely on the fees they charge for building measurement and don’t want to absorb a rise in project costs – even though the As-Builts are usually billed at a much lower rate than the higher-end design services.

Quality concerns:

Many architects fear that outsourcing could lead to an inaccurate or incomplete As-Built product – despite the fact that the professional measuring firms typically have better tools, technology, and experience.

The Benefits of Outsourcing As-Builts

When properly done with an experienced and reputable firm, there are numerous benefits that come from working with a professional As-Built company:

Increased Efficiency:

By starting each project with a consistent set of As-Builts, you can streamline your entire design process. You and your staff can focus your time and effort on what you do best, with the confidence that comes from knowing you are working with accurate As-Built drawings.

Better Results:

With the tools, technology and experience that come from focusing solely on As-Built measuring, you will receive a more accurate and detailed set of drawings than you would be able to create yourself or by using your own staff.


Your project should NEVER be delayed because you are too busy to get out to the property and take measurements. When you outsource your As-Builts, you are paying for the service only when you need it, and not maintaining costly equipment and staff when you don’t.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your As-Built strategy or a particular project with an expert at PPM, please Contact Us. Thank you for reading!