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# Land Surveying / Engineering Surveying I

## Chapter 4 : Levelling (Part 1)

Introduction
Levelling
General term applied to any of the various
processes by which elevations of points or
differences in elevation are determined.
A measurement process whereby the difference
in height between two or more points that are
some distance from each other can be
determined.

Introduction
Levelling

Introduction
Levelling
Levelling is done when we need to :
Establish new vertical control (Bench Mark or
Temporary Bench Mark).
Determine the heights of discrete points.
Provide spot heights or contours on a plan.
Provide data for road cross-sections or volumes of
earthworks.
Provide a level or inclined plane in the setting out of
construction works

Introduction
Levelling

Introduction
Levelling

Introduction
Levelling
Levelling results are used to
(i)

(ii)
(iii)
(iv)
(v)
(vi)

## Design highways, railroads, canals, sewers, water

supply systems and other facilities having grade
lines that best conform to existing topography.
Lay out construction projects according to planned
elevations.
Calculate volumes of earthwork and other materials.
Investigate drainage characteristic of an area.
Develop maps showing general ground
configurations.
Study earth subsidence crusted motion.

Contents
3.1 Terminology and
Definitions
3.2 Levelling Equipment
3.3 Theory of Levelling
3.4 Forms of Levelling
3.5 Levelling Procedure
3.6 Errors in Levelling

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Horizontal line at A

Level line
through A
Ground surface

Vertical at A

Definitions
Vertical line

## A line that follows the direction of gravity as

indicated by a plumb line.

Definitions
Horizontal plane

## A plane perpendicular to the direction of

gravity.
In plane surveying, a plane perpendicular to
the plumb line.

Definitions
Horizontal line

Definitions
Level surface

## A curve surface that at every point is

perpendicular to the local plumb line (the
direction in which gravity acts.)
Level surfaces are approximately spheroidal
in shape.
A body of still water is the best example.

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Level line
A line in a level surface (curved line).

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Mean Sea Level (MSL)
The elevation of sea differs from station to
station depending on local influences of the
tide.
A reference surface to which the heights of all
points in a survey or on a site are referred.
A surface which defines a datum height.

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Vertical datum
Any level surface to which elevations are
referred, e.g. MSL.

Elevation
The vertical distance from a vertical datum,
usually MSL, to a point or object.
If the elevation of point A is 244.95 m, A is
244.59 m above its adopted datum.

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Bench mark (BM)
A relatively permanent object,
natural or artificial, having a
marked point whose elevation
datum is known or assumed.
Common examples are metal
disks set in concrete, reference
marks chiselled on large rock, etc.

Definitions
Bench mark (BM)

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Temporary Bench mark (TBM)
A point placed to provide
a temporary reference point.
Common examples are
peg, nail, spike, etc.

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Levelling
An operation of determining the difference in
elevation between points on the earths
surface.
A reference surface or datum is established
and an elevation assigned to it.
Differences in the determined elevations are
subtracted from or added to this assigned
value and result in the elevations of any
point.

## 3.1 Terminology and

Definitions
Vertical control
A series of bench marks or other points of
known elevation established throughout an
area, also termed basic control or level
control.

## 3.2 Levelling Equipment

Equipment frequently used
in levelling is as follows :

Level.
Tripods.
Levelling staff or rod.
Rod level.

## 3.2 Levelling Equipment

Level
Level consists of some
important
parts, namely telescope,
focusing knobs, base, etc.

Tripods

## It supports the level base and

keeps it stable during the
observations.
It consists of a tripod head to
which the levels base is
attached, 3 wooded or metal
legs which are hinged at the
on each leg to press or anchor
into the ground to achieve a
firm setup.

## 3.2 Levelling Equipment

Levelling staff (levelling rod)

## The length of the instrument is

3, 4, or 5m.
Different colours must be used
in alternate meters, the most
common colours being black
and red on a white background.

## 3.2 Levelling Equipment

Levelling staff (levelling rod)
Used for measuring distances
vertically above or below
points on which it is held
relative to a line of
collimation as defined
by the level.
Since the staff is used to
measure a vertical distance,
it must be held vertically.

## 3.2 Levelling Equipment

Levelling staff (levelling rod)

## 3.2 Levelling Equipment

Rod level
It ensures fast and correct
rod plumbing.
Its L shape is designed to
fit the rear and side faces
of a levelling staff, while
the bulls-eye bubble is
centred to plumb the rod
in both directions.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Height of Instrument (HI)
The height of instrument in levelling is the
elevation or the reduced level (RL) of the line
of sight or line of collimation.

## Reduced level (R.L.)

The R.L. of a point is the elevation of the point
referred to any datum which may be either
assumed or which may be referred to the MSL.
The height of a point above the datum.

Back sight (BS)

## Back sight (BS) is used to denote the staff

reading kept over a point whose elevation is
The terms back have nothing to do with
direction.
Always the first reading from a new
instrument station.

## Fore sight (FS) is the staff reading kept over a

point whose elevation is required to be known.
The terms fore have nothing to do with
direction.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Intermediate point
All points in between the BS and FS whose
elevation is required to be determined are
termed intermediate points.
This reading is called intermediate sight (IS).
Any sighting that is not a back sight or
foresight.

## Change point (CP) or turning point

(TP)
A point which the level staff is held for the

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Rise and fall
The difference in elevation at any point which
is determined with respect to its preceding
point.

Arithmetical check
A check made in order to check that the
readings are properly booked or entered in
their correct respective column.
Can also be done for correct calculation of
R.L..

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

When R.L. of point above
HI is required, the staff is
simply held upside down
on the point and the
negative sign.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Rise and Fall method
The rise or fall in elevation at any point is
determined with respect to its preceding
point.
Rise or Fall

= BS FS
= BS IS1
= IS1 FS
= IS1 IS2

Arithmetical check :
BS FS =
Rise Fall

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Height of the Plane of Collimation
method (HPC method)
The levels of the various points are computed
by deducting the staff readings at those
points form the R.L. of the line of sight in that
section.
HI =
R.L. of B
=

R.L. of BM + BS
HI FS

Arithmetical check :
BS FS =
Rise Fall
= Last R.L. First R.L.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Observation Procedure
Figure below illustrates a typical levelling situation, where
the reduced levels of several points B, C, D, E, F and G are
to be determined relative to a point A which is the bench
mark. The levelling is to be closed on a second bench
mark H.
The instrument has to be setup up twice in this
particular case, although in a practical levelling exercise
there could be many more set-up points.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Observation Procedure
Every time the instrument is set up, the FIRST sight
taken from that position is called BACK sight (BS).
Likewise the LAST sight taken, prior to moving the
instrument, is called a FORE sight (FS). Thus, in set-up
number 1, point A is a backsight, while point E is a
foresight. Any other sight observed between backsight
and foresight is an INTERMEDIATE sight (IS). Points B, C
and D are therefore intermediate sights.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Observation Procedure
At set-up number 2, the sight taken to point E is a BS;
point F is an IS; point G is an IS; finally point H is a FS. It
should be noted that sight G is taken to the underside of a
beam, which is higher than the instrument. In such a
case, the staff is held upside down against the point while
the reading is taken. Such a sight is called an inverted
staff reading. Point E, where a foresight followed by a
backsight is taken, is called a change point.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Observation Procedure
Both readings are entered on the same line of the field
book. Each point is given a separate line in the field book
and its reading is entered on that line in its respective
column, either BS, IS or FS.
At each point of the
survey, the staffholder holds
the staff on the mark and
ensures that it is held
vertically (guided by the
rod level), facing towards
the instrument.

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Observation Procedure
The observer directs the telescope
towards the staff and using the
focusing screw, brings the staff
clearly into focus.
Parallax should already have been eliminated in setting up
the instrument in which case there should be no apparent
movement of the cross-hairs when the head is moved up
and down.
The observer then reads the figures on the staff and
enters the reading on the appropriate line and column in
the field book. The reading is taken once more and

## 3.3 Theory of Levelling

Rise and Fall Method

BS

IS

FS

Rise

Fall

0.85
0
1.50
0

0.65

Reduced
Level

Remarks

0.650

Bench Mark A

HPC Method

BS

IS

FS

2.400
1.800

HPC

Reduced
Level

Remarks

207.900

205.500

Peg A

206.100

Peg B

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Simple Levelling
The elevations of various points are
determined from 1 set of the instrument as in
case of levelling a building site or for
establishing some bench marks nearly.
The level is not shifted and is to be used when
the area is small and for taking the levels of
an existing structure.

## Compound Levelling (Differential

Levelling)
To be carried out for a great distance and it is
not possible to do the levelling from 1 set up

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Longitudinal or Profile Level
A type of compound levelling in which the
undulations of the ground along the center
line of a proposed road or canal or for any
other type of road survey are required.
Its objective is to give the elevations at known
distance apart and then obtain the profile
along a given line.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Reciprocal levelling
In levelling, it is essential and desirable that
the level should be set up mid-way between
the BS and FS, so that error due to the line of
collimation not being perfectly horizontal is
eliminated.
Therefore, this levelling is applied if it is not
possible to keep the level exactly mid-way
due to river, deep gutter or a ravine
intervening.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Reciprocal levelling
Extra notes :
Accurate determination of the difference in
level between two points by setting up the
instrument near each of the points in
succession and taking observations of staff
It is useful when it is not feasible to set up the
level midway between the points.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Reciprocal levelling

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Reciprocal levelling
This procedure is used for either differential or
trigonometric leveling when along sight across
a wide river, ravine, or similar obstacle must
This long sight will be affected by curvature
and refraction and by any small error in
aligning the line of sight with the bubble axis.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Reciprocal levelling
The alignment error can be minimized
bybalancing the long sight and
computingthe curvature.
The atmospheric conditions will vary so much
overan open expanse thatthe refraction
correction will be quite erratic.
Reciprocal leveling is desired to minimize the
effect of the atmosphere as well as the line of
sight and curvature corrections.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Reciprocal levelling

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Flying levelling
A reconnoissance level over the course of a
A method when a bench mark of known
elevation is available, a series of levels may
be run along a general direction to reach
some other point whose level can be
determined and fixed as a temporary B.M., if
necessary.
It is a very approximate form of levelling in
which no distance are measured and
distances as long as possible are taken.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Flying levelling
It is also employed for the determination of
approximate levels of different points.
In such cases, the distances as long as
possible between the level and staff are
measured.
It is done where rapidity but low precision is
required. It is normally used for
reconnaissance surveys or for approximate
checking of the level.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Precise levelling
A very accurate method of differential
levelling for establishing bench mark or where
high precision is required. Refine instruments
and procedures enhance the accuracy of the
work. It is a specialized form of levelling and
is usually conducted by government agencies
like Survey of India.
It is carried out for establishing some
permanent bench marks or some important
works where greatest precision is required.

## 3.4 Forms of Levelling

Cross levelling
When it is required to know the nature of the
ground on either side of the centre line of the
proposed route, levels are taken at right
angles to the general direction of the
proposed alignment.
Cross section are laid at right angles to
proposed direction of the road and at suitable
distances and levelling carried along this cross
section.
Generally, the profile levelling and crosssection levelling are done simultaneously, to
help in estimation of the earthwork involved
in a route.

## 3.5 Levelling Procedure

1) Setting up a level
2) Duties of a rodperson (staffman)
(Rise & Fall method or HPC
method)
4) Arithmetical check

Gross errors

## Misplacing the decimal point, reading the wrong

meter value and reading the staff wrong way up.

## Using the wrong cross-hair

lines.
This error is common in poor visibility.

Gross errors
Wrong booking

## The reading is noted with the figure interchanged,

e.g. 3.020 m instead of 3.002 m.

## A staff reading can easily be written in the wrong

column or even omitted entirely.

## 3.6 Errors in Levelling

Constant errors
Non-verticality of the level staff.

## If the staff leans forward or backward, it is not

easily be detected by the staff man.
The error can be eliminated by fitting the staff
with a circular spirit level or rod level.

## If the line of sight is not perfectly horizontal when

the bubble of the spirit level is central, there will
be a constant error in the staff reading.
The error can be entirely eliminated by making
BS and FS equal in length.

## 3.6 Errors in Levelling

Constant errors
Eliminating the collimation error :

## 3.6 Errors in Levelling

Random errors
Effect of wind and temperature

## The stability of the instrument may be affected,

causing the height of collimation to change
slightly.

## When the instruments set on soft ground it is

likely to sink slightly as the observer moves
around it.

Change points
At any CP, the level staff must be held on exactly
the same spot for both FS and BS.

Human deficiencies

## Errors arise in estimating the millimeter readings,

particularly when visibility is bad or sights are

## 3.7 Misclosure &

If the levelling is carried out between two
known stations, e.g., from 1 BM to another BM),
the difference between the calculated and
known values of the R.L. of the final BM is
called misclosure.