Much like a boundary survey, a topographic survey is prepared to locate natural and man-made features on a particular piece of land. The topographic survey is different in a sense that the elevation of the surface of the land is surveyed and represented with either contour lines and/or spot elevations on the resulting map. The topographic survey usually includes underground features (storm and sanitary sewers, utility lines, etc.) and above ground improvements like buildings, utility poles, pavement, etc.
Topographic surveys are usually carried out in order to have a specific record of the current conditions of a piece of land that is about to undergo some type of construction activity. Designers, Engineers, and Architects use a topographic survey as the starting surface of their design and then plan what the proposed final surface will be like according to it.
Often a topographic survey is very beneficial on a severely limited site. The site might be limited by difficult terrain, existing features or adjacent structures. A precise topographic survey will assure that the designed improvement will fit on the site within those conditions.