The Engineers Journal – Murphy Surveys assesses after-effects of Haiti earthquake

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The Engineers Journal – Murphy Surveys assesses after-effects of Haiti earthquake

The headquarters of the Caribbean’s largest telecommunications company and Haiti’s largest employer, Digicel, was one of the only buildings left standing and operational in Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010. Kier Construction recently contracted Murphy Surveys to undertake high-precision surveying on the building to assess any after-effects of the natural disaster and to facilitate the design and replacement of the curtain walling.

Surveyor Aidan Massey at the Digicel site in Haiti

Surveyor Aidan Massey at the Digicel site in Haiti


Owned by Irishman Denis O’Brien, Digicel has more than 13 million customers of its telecommunications products and services, across 31 markets in the Caribbean, Central and South America and the South Pacific. The company operates three charitable foundations and employs more than 5,500 in Haiti.

UK-based Kier Construction has been working closely with Digicel in Haiti since 2010. Having worked with Murphy Surveys on many utility surveys and joint-venture rail surveys in the past, Kier Construction contracted the company to survey the 11-floor office building for measurement data, with the objective of detecting any movement that may have occurred during the 2010 earthquake and to facilitate the design and replacement of the curtain walling. Two Murphy Surveys surveyors spent two weeks on site to complete the high-precision surveying of the 211,500 sq ft area, with a total value of approximately €30,000.

The survey data was required urgently due to a tight construction deadline; therefore, it was important that all challenges were overcome without causing any delay. Challenges associated with the survey location included logistics and the health, safety and security of the surveyors in what can be a dangerous environment.

It was also important that the surveyors were highly trained, skilled and experienced, in order to meet the required specifications. Additional checks were required during the survey process due to the effects of the heat and humidity on the survey equipment. Pedestrian and vehicle traffic was extremely busy at all times at the site and access was restricted to certain floors at certain times. The project manager, health and safety officer and administration staff worked together to overcome these challenges with careful planning.

Equipped with the high-accuracy Leica TS15 Total Station and DNA 03 Digital Level, the surveyors travelled to Haiti in January via a series of connecting flights. A high-accuracy control framework was established around the building, and on each of the 11 floors. A grid of levels was surveyed on each floor to provide accurate positional information for each floor slab. All transom and mullion positions of the curtain walling were surveyed both internally and externally, to provide dimensional information for the curtain walling.

Due to the timeline on the project and the remote survey location, it was essential that the survey data was complete and correct before the surveyors left the site. This was achieved by sending the data to Murphy Surveys’ Irish head office in Kilcullen, Co Kildare on a daily basis for processing and quality control. All data was checked for accuracy and completeness by the office-based team while the surveyors were on site in Haiti.

All deliverables, including 3D AutoCAD drawings for design purposes, 3D AutoCAD elevation drawings, an ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) file of surveyed points anád a Control Report, were delivered to Kier before the required deadlines, meeting all specifications and expectations. The data may also be applied by Kier to facilitate future works, such as their construction of the new Marriott Hotel beside the Digicel offices.

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