Complicated architectural renderings and engineering drawings used to be
drawn by hand, using a combination of complex mathematical formulas,
drawing implements, and graphs. However, today's technology —
specifically computers — have changed the way that architects and
engineers are doing business. Not only do computers save these
technical professionals an enormous amount of time, they have also
completely changed the way that structures, products, and systems are
Regardless of whether the firm is small or large, just about every
designer and drafter has access to the design hardware and software that
were used only by the largest, most prestigious firms just 30 years
ago. As a matter of fact, today it is unthinkable for an architect
or engineer to use anything but computer-aided design, commonly called
CAD, if they expect to compete in their professional fields.
While original computer-aided design programs were incredibly complex
and required hours of learning to master, today's programs are fairly
easy to use right "out of the box." Many of these programs were
written by programmers who were once architects or designers, and they
don't require fancy customization or additional programming in order to
use them effectively.
Computer-aided design programs enable their users to draw anything that
can be drawn by hand — lines, curves, circles, and three-dimensional
shapes. In addition, computer-aided design programs allow designers
and drafters to create things that aren't possible by hand. These
programs not only allow for drawing, drafting, and modeling, but also
allow information to be managed. Not only does CAD allow a designer
to draft and draw, it can also come up with lists of building materials,
construction specifications, and cost data depending upon the renderings.
CAD programs offer many features to designers and drafters, including
the following concepts:
Computer-aided design is object-based, meaning designers
don't have to recreate every wall, doorway, column, or facade from
scratch every time they use it. Instead of redrawing the element,
CAD programs allow the designer to easily add it to the drawing.
Instead of spending time redrawing something that's already been
designed, it can be inserted in just a few seconds.
Computer-aided design allows the designer to mass reproduce
elements such as lines, multiple columns, windows, walls, and lighting
layouts. This allows projects to be assembled from a few elements
that are used repeatedly.
Computer aided-design allows you to put parts of your
drawing into groups, so that you can remove them or insert them as a
whole. The designer can use these "layers" to view the same drawing
in several different ways.
Computer-aided design allows the designer to make changes
in "cycles." For example, if the designer wants to replace square
elements with round elements, he or she can replace all of them at once,
instead of one by one.
Because they allow elements to be magnified or reduced at
the touch of a button, computer-aided design programs allow the designer
to work on the drawing as if it were full scale.
Other benefits of computer-aided design programs are increased efficiency,
the ability to attach pertinent information to drawings, and the ability
to create and view three-dimensional renderings in addition to traditional
two-dimensional drawings. For more in-depth information about
computer-aided design, see the references listed below.
Crosley, M. (1988). The Architect's Guide to Computer Aided Design.
New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Green, R. (2007). Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide.
Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing.
Lueptow, R. (2007). Graphic Concepts for Computer Aided Design.
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.