What is Architectural CAD?

Larry Ray Palmer

Architectural computer-aided drafting (CAD) software is used by architects to create both two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) design plans. More advanced CAD programs might also offer additional features, such as animation and rendering of the design. These programs are advantageous to architects because the CAD software makes it possible to alter the design of a building in a variety of ways without the need for multiple drawings of the structure.

CAD software can electronically produce building plans.
CAD software can electronically produce building plans.

With architectural CAD programs, the architect can see how the various components of a design fit together and interact with each other. In simple terms, the architectural CAD program essentially uses the architectural designer's input to create an electronic model of the structure. This is a huge advantage over the older methods of building design when the architect had to create his or her drawings by hand, because the architectural CAD program allows him or her to detect and correct design flaws in real time.

Architects use software to create on-screen designs.
Architects use software to create on-screen designs.

Using architectural CAD, the architect can easily add or remove elements from the design in a matter of minutes. Before architectural CAD programs came into use, even small changes to the design of a building could be the cause of significant delays as the architect had to throw out old drawings and start over. CAD programs create designs in 2-D, 3-D or both, so it is simply a matter of changing a few pieces of information, and the design can instantly be updated to reflect the new specifications or can be reverted back to the old design, if necessary.

Architectural CAD is typically used in conjunction with a plotter or a high-end large format printer.
Architectural CAD is typically used in conjunction with a plotter or a high-end large format printer.

With the animation and rendering features available on many CAD programs, the architect can watch the design come to life with fully functioning doors, windows and other features. This ability to create a working model makes it possible to pinpoint design flaws that could be troublesome in a finished building. This ability also makes it possible to find and eliminate dangerous and costly structural weak points before the construction process actually starts.

There are many different architectural CAD programs available as both paid and free-to-use software. The paid products range from very low-priced software to extremely expensive software packages. These programs can be found for nearly every known operating system, so the architect with a preference for a particular operating system should have no trouble finding an architectural CAD program that meets his or her needs.

Most architectural designs were originally drawn in blue, but today CAD designs may be printed in almost any color.
Most architectural designs were originally drawn in blue, but today CAD designs may be printed in almost any color.

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