This post originally appeared on Habitables as part of my guest blogger series on architectural software.
As a lover of architecture and self-labeled technology geek, I was immediately drawn to a program offered at a local technical college in Omaha, Nebraska. A semester in to my degree course in Architecture Design Technology, I have become intrigued by the software used by architecture firms, most of which I will cover over the next year.
There are plenty of niche players out there, but I’m going to stick to the big boys for the purpose of this series. The titles I’ll be reviewing include: AutoCAD, Revit, ArchiCAD, Google Sketup, and 3DS Max. I had thought to include Chief Architect in here, too, but it just doesn’t seem as capable or as widely used as the others. If I’m wrong about this, then let me know and I may decide to include it.
While this post will be mainly a written introduction to the series, I’ll make sure to include plenty of eye candy in the more detailed posts about the individual titles.
Here’s a quick run though of each title and how I’ll learn it:
I’ve just about wrapped up the intermediate course in AutoCAD now, and I’ve had a lot of fun using the software, although I haven’t had the chance to explore the 3D portion of it. AutoCAD seems to be the starting point for most architectural drawings and has replaced, for the most part, the need for manual pencil and paper drawing boards. It is used to create electronic drawings of floor plans, elevations, sections and other necessary details. AutoCAD’s power comes with the ability to replicate and manipulate objects that have been built to actual scale.
As I said, I’ve just about completed the intermediate course and my next few posts will be about AutoCAD and my experiences so far.
From what I’ve heard about Revit, it is the holy grail of software for architects. It’s an example of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software where real life information (materials, texture, lighting) is stored about real objects (walls, windows, doors, etc.) to make up a model of a structure. You can see the strength of BIM software when it comes to pulling data out of the model. Rather than relying on the architect or project managers to calculate quantities of the materials needed to construct a house, the software can automatically pull that info based on the objects you’ve included in the drawing. Multiple floor plans and systems – HVAC, electrical, plumbing – can be included in the same model and technical drawings can be pulled out of the model, too.
I’ll be starting with Revit in June in a formal class environment.
Billed as the best alternative to Revit, and even a preferred alternative for many architects, ArchiCAD is another example of BIM software. One of my instructors described ArchiCAD as a “dumbed-down” Revit, but I’m really excited to see what it can do, especially because it has a native Mac version whereas Revit is Windows only.
ArchiCAD seems to have a great online tutorial and wiki section, which is beneficial since I’ll learn this software entirely using online resources.
Definitely not as complex as the other software titles above, Google Sketchup is a 3D modeling program that brags of its ease of use and a shallow learning curve. I’ve used Sketchup before in an interior design presentation and found it more than capable of representing both room and furniture layout three dimensionally.
This is another piece of software that I will learn exclusively online. I got a tip from Jeremiah Russell over at r | one architecture that Sketchup is great for lighting studies. Looking at the list of plugins for Sketchup, it seems very flexible.
If Google Sketchup is the quick and easy entry to 3D modeling, then 3DS Max is at the other end of the spectrum. It’s a sophisticated 3D modeling, animation, rendering and compositing tool that is capable of creating life-like representations of structures. From what I’ve looked at so far, this software seems to be a visual tool for architects rather than a production tool. I can imagine expertise in the software makes you the sales team’s best friend as the client can see exactly what their project will look like rather than having them stare blankly at 2D floor plans.
This is the third course offered at the technical college, which I’ll cover later this year.
I look forward to sharing my experiences about all the above software. From your own experiences, what program is best? Why do you like it? Have you tried any of the others and switched because of a bad experience or complication?