Day in the Life: An SEH Surveyor

Take one. SEH Surveyor-Crew Chief Brian Hartmann, in our Duluth, Minnesota office takes us behind the scenes on one of his typical work days. Take two. We canceled our first attempt due to rainy and windy weather conditions—not ideal for us. But we quickly learned surveyors work in weather conditions from snow to rain to sunshine and in temperatures from 100+ to below zero. 

Brian took us on a surveyor tour of two sites. To Brian, he’s just doing his job. For us, it was interesting to see how the terrain is analyzed prior to, and during, construction.

Project site #1: Duluth Sky Harbor Airport

Sky Harbor

The challenge is for aircraft arriving and departing. There are protected trees growing into the runway approach and departure surfaces at this airport. The solution? Rotate the runway.  However, the rotation places the runway into Lake Superior Bay. To accommodate the new runway, a berm is being built and back-filled to support it. In the end, the trees stay protected and the pilots have a clear sight path and a new runway to safely land and depart.

As part of the surveying process, Brian visits the Duluth Sky Harbor airport, located in Duluth, Minnesota, twice a week to measure eight settlement plates as the team brings up the fill which is supporting the berm. 

Surveying the eight settlement plates can take one to two hours depending on the number of trucks hauling dirt and number of trucks blocking his view, and the number of dirt piles.

This was all water when I first came out on the project site. I went out on the ice drilling holes to measure the ground underneath the water so they could determine how much fill was needed.
Brian Hartmann, SEH Surveyor-Crew Chief

Watch the video to get an idea of how Brian surveys this project.

Project site #2: City of Proctor, Minnesota


This project is a total street reconstruction. The project team replaced the sanitary water main, storm sewer, road, road bedding and all the service lines to the homes. Brian completed a topographic survey last year pre-reconstruction and completed as-built surveys and structure surveys during construction. As he gave us a guided tour of the project area, we asked him a few more questions:

Q1. What are the challenges you faced while working on this project?

Ledge rock (a.k.a. bedrock)—a mass of solid rock— has been the only challenge. Northeastern Minnesota is known for ledge rock so it is common to run into it when you’re working. It may take a day or two of blasting it before you can move on.

Q2. What makes you want to come back to work each day?

Q3. What tools and equipment do you have in your truck to survey?

Just a glimpse of the tools and equipment Brian has available successfully do his job.


Q4. What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in your role?

Q5. What do you like best about SEH?

Brian likes the people and the variety of jobs he works on. At his previous job, he staked houses for a survey company.

“My best day was when I staked 14 houses in one day,” says Brian. “Now I have the opportunity to work on larger projects such as the Duluth International Airport, climb to the top of water towers and help our surveyors in other offices on their projects.”

More about Brian


Brian joined SEH more than four years ago bringing with him 13 years of survey experience. While he was in school for architecture and design, Brian had a phone call with his dad—his dad with more than 40+ years of survey experience. 

A friend of my dad's opened his own business and was looking for someone to come in and help with redlines and AutoCAD drawings. My dad told him I was going to school for that and could help him out and I agreed.

Brian has been surveying ever since.

About us: The authors.

Emily Honerbrink

Emily Honerbrink is a visual artist who uses her talents in video production and graphic design to create impactful day in the life stories. Contact Emily

Deb Lee

Debra Lee works in the marketing department who develops and writes content about the talents and expertise of our dedicated employee-owners. Contact Debra

We’re hiring! Join our team.

At SEH, our people define us. You are the reason we lead the industry. Explore open positions, our culture and what “100% employee-owned” means for your career. Connect with your Recruitement Team.

Your destination for industry news and insight.

Browse our library of eBooks, case studies, infographics and more. Available for free download, these tools tackle your most pressing project challenges.