Monthly Archives: February 2015

Surveyors determine new height for Washington Monument in DC


In this Oct. 8, 2014, file photo, a photographer is silhouetted in the reflecting pool as he captures the sunrise behind the Washington Monument in Washington. Government surveyors have determined a new height for the Washington Monument that’s nearly 10 inches shorter than what has been thought for more than 130 years, officials will announce Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

 WASHINGTON (AP) — Government surveyors have determined a new height for the Washington Monument that’s nearly 10 inches shorter than what has been recorded for more than 130 years, officials said Monday.

The new measurement puts the monument at 554 feet, 7 and eleven-thirty-seconds of an inch, as measured from the floor of the main entrance to the top. Ever since the stone obelisk was completed in 1884, however, the historic height has been recorded at 555 feet, 5 and 1/8 inches. It’s a number circulated for decades on tours of the capital and in civics classes about the monument honoring the nation’s first president.

So could this be a case of an incredible shrinking monument? Has it sunk into the ground more than previously thought? No, not even close, said the chief scientist at the National Geodetic Survey, which conducted the measurement with accuracy to within one millimeter.

Modern international standards from the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat — an official guideline for building measurements — call for a different base point than what was likely used in the 1880s, said Dru Smith, chief geodesist with the National Geodetic Survey. This standard measures from the lowest open-air pedestrian entrance to the building.

“The building didn’t change height because of anything; it is just where you start from,” Smith said.

The original measurement conducted in 1884 by Lt. Col. Thomas Casey is believed to have used four brass markers as a base for measurement. Those markers remain in place about 9 inches below ground off each corner of the monument. It’s possible the markers were at ground level in the past. A new plaza was installed around the monument more recently, and “it’s clear that what was ground level has changed over the years,” Smith said.

Measurements from the brass markers to the top in 1999 and 2014 essentially reconfirmed the original measurement, showing the 1884 measurement was done with “incredible accuracy.”

The only observable height change was the pyramid-shaped tip had been rounded off over time. Surveyors in 1934 also noticed the peak had been rounded and believed it was due to frequent lightning strikes that melted the aluminum tip.

“Well, this time around, we took very careful measurements,” Smith said. “We were able to determine about 3/8 of an inch had been melted off from the very top.”

That means the original 1884 measurement, completed with much less sophisticated equipment, was within ¾ of an inch of the findings from the newest survey, using the original brass markers as a base point.

“It’s remarkable, quite honestly, that they had the ability to get such an accurate measurement back in that time,” Smith said.

When the monument was completed in 1884, it was the world’s tallest structure until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was built. It remains by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, which strictly restricts building heights. Most buildings are shorter than the U.S. Capitol dome, which rises 288 feet.

The new survey was conducted while the monument was wrapped in scaffolding for restoration work following a 2011 earthquake. Earlier survey results showed the monument did not sink any further into the ground as a result of the 5.8-magnitude earthquake. The monument was built on land that used to be underwater, and it has sunk about 2.2 inches since 1901.

Lest anyone be confused by the changing measurements, the National Park Service as caretaker of the monument has no intention of changing its brochures or description of the height to reflect the new numbers.

“For our purposes we’ll still use the historic height rather than the architectural height, since they’re measured from different places,” said spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles.

The extensive survey will give the Park Service new data as a baseline to track any changes in the monument’s height, tilt or compression in the future. The National Geodetic Survey and National Park Service revealed the survey results on Presidents Day, which also celebrates Washington’s birthday.

“I think we can all agree the significance of the Washington Monument is really far greater than the architectural qualities or even its height,” said Mike Commisso, a cultural resources specialist for the National Mall. “It continues to serve as a memorial to one of the most influential and prominent public figures in our nation’s history.”

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In this Sept. 26, 2014, photo, the monuments of Washington are silhouetted through the lifting fog over the nation’s capitol as seen from an overlook in Arlington, Va. From left are, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Smithsonian Castle, and the Library of Congress. Government surveyors have determined a new height for the Washington Monument that’s nearly 10 inches shorter than what has been thought for more than 130 years, officials will announce Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Factors Affecting the World of Engineering

sps1The world of engineering and land surveying can be a roller coaster ride, full of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Many factors affect our business; the economy, the weather, oil and gas prices, and political influences to name a few.

Typically when work is plentiful, or a sizable job is landed, consulting firms ramp up their office and field staff, but what happens when work slows down or a specific job or contract comes to an end?  Unfortunately, this typically means layoffs or other cutbacks.  No firm whether large or small likes this situation.  Layoffs are not good for morale or public image, and they have other impacts as well, such as increased unemployment benefits paid by the company. In order to help reduce these impacts on other companies, Shawnee Professional Services has created a Professional Staffing division.
The idea of a Professional Staffing division for Shawnee started in September when Company President Mitch Garrett and Vice President of Engineering & Design Michael Hansen took a trip to Chicago, Illinois and met with a large Chicago based engineering firm at their corporate headquarters.  This large nationwide firm had a large survey backlog at the time, and needed field support.  After this meeting, Shawnee supplied two field crews, in the Chicagoland area, for approximately 6 to 8 weeks.  As a result of Shawnee providing manpower, this firm was able to continue accepting new jobs while making a nice markup on the project.   Shawnee then was able to supply crews to a large pipeline project in North Dakota which could have the potential to go on for several years.
What makes Shawnee a great fit for the Professional Staffing model is our location.  Headquartered in Vienna, Illinois, we are conveniently located within a couple of hours from St. Louis and Nashville, and have access to flights to Chicago through Barkley Airport in Paducah, Kentucky.  In addition, when compared to cost of living and rates in a major metropolitan area, Shawnee can be very competitive.  For example, a two man survey crew in Chicago has a typical rate of $150/hour.  Shawnee’s professional rate for that same crew is approximately $125/hour.
The Professional Staffing idea is not just limited to field crews.  Shawnee can also provide drafting, administration, asset management, permitting, GIS services, and land acquisition.
Another important element of Shawnee’s Professional Staffing division is our commitment to our employees by providsps2ing training and our commitment to technology.  Shawnee has been using the eBee UAV by SenseFly to provide aerial photography and other surface model data.
The eBee is a professional mapping drone that captures high-resolution aerial
photos that you can transform into accurate 2D orthomosaics and 3D models.
(see image right)
In addition, Shawnee has recently purchased a Trimble V10 imaging rover that can generate survey, GIS or mapping accuracy positions from images.  The Trimble V10 imaging rover utilizes 12 calibrated cameras to capture 60 megapixel panoramic images.  The Trimble V10 has many applications for engineering topographic surveys, ALTA surveys, and construction observation services.
Shawnee is currently training its office and field crew staff to be a minimum Survey Certified Technician Level 2 as defined by the National Society of Professional Surveyors.  Each firm that utilizes Shawnee staff will know that are getting a trained and capable employee.
Shawnee staff has been marketing the Professional Staffing division to several large Engineering and Land Surveying firms and has potential opportunities in Chicago, Central Illinois, Wyoming, Delaware, and Virginia.  The Professional Staffing division is another example of how Shawnee Professional Services thinks outside the box and continues to be an innovative force in the areas of Engineering, Land Surveying, Acquisition, and Energy.


“I have dealt with many companies like Shawnee Professional Services in the past, but none of them even come close to the honesty, integrity, and awesome service I received from Shawnee. These guys are on their game. A+ Thanks again!”

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