Almost 40 years have passed since the introduction of computer-aided drafting and design software caused a revolution in the centuries-old profession of architectural design. Hours upon hours of work was delegated to hand-drawn sketches, followed by the labor-intensive drafting of detailed design layouts and the arduous construction of physical cardboard models. Initially, architectural CAD drafting was used merely as a substitute for the vellum and pencil board drafters. Workstations were extremely large and expensive, so initial investments were limited to a small number of drafters to support an entire A&E firm.
Yet, technology improved and smaller more efficient CAD workstations kicked the slow and inflexible method of architectural design into high gear. Architects became free to make multiple conceptual or design changes without a significant impact on downstream workflows. Immediately, the workflow centered around the expediency of establishing standard libraries of commonly used details and components, along with the modification and re-use of subsets of previous project design files as the basis for new projects.
Digital drafting catapulted the architectural, engineering and construction industries into the modern era of lighting-fast advancements in architectural design. Unparalleled dimensional accuracy, complex design functionality, aesthetic creativity, curvilinear building envelopes and open-space framing, along with tremendous gains in project completion time and savings in drafting manpower hours, are all compliments of computer-aided architectural design technology.
The millennium has ushered in a new era in architectural CAD drafting. The state of architectural CAD is shifting the role of the architectural drafter as they are required to operate multiple and highly complex, state-of-the-art CAD software platforms, in a global construction industry that is demanding new ideas and new methods of designing visualizing, constructing, and maintaining structures in the modern world.
The Changing Role of the Architectural CAD Drafter/Designer
Today’s architectural drafters and designers are required to possess much more than exemplary drafting skills and mathematical acuity. Emphasis is also placed on creative thinking in which to translate the architect’s conceptual design into a well-developed 3D model, demanding a higher level of multi-dimensional spatial awareness not required by former draftsmen.
The ability to manipulate a two-dimensional graphics screen with three-dimensional coordinate system accuracy, while maintaining the underlying database of real-world object properties, requires a multitude of skills. A keen understanding of CAD software capabilities and limitations, a technical knowledge of drafting industry standards and codes, industry experience in the construction of structures, and an innate resourcefulness for architectural creativity, are all traits of the new architectural CAD drafter.
Architectural Software Productivity Tools for Increased Profit
The driving force behind most new CAD software version releases remains the inclusion of new and enhanced productivity tools. The downfall is when architectural firms neglect to offer employee training on new software enhancements and most importantly, neglect to integrate the new software bells-and-whistles into the production workflow. A benefit to using outsourced architectural services lies in access to drafters that are highly skilled in applying the latest software productivity enhancements to increase the efficiency and accuracy of the design layout process. Choose an architectural services partner with drafters and designers who regularly utilize productivity tools, such as the following:
- use of the 3D model to generate architectural floor plans, elevations, and sections, preserving the dimensional integrity and component connectivity.
- the use of an extensive library of intelligent interior and exterior design components to automate the downstream development of schedules and specifications.
- access to a wide range of materials and textures database graphics for high-quality client presentations, rendering, and other visualization mediums.
- using calculation-based and parametric drafting tools which constrain the relationship between design elements to solve complex geometric structures.
- providing an enhance design file readability with the extensive use of layers, line styles, and line weights.
- the use of overlaid linked or external reference file attachments to coordinate MEP trade systems thus reducing in-field interferences and rework.
- using tagged callout symbology for details, sections, and wall types that associate the plan layout with fabrication shop drawings, etc.
- use of intelligent components to automate advanced bill-of-materials and estimation take-offs.
Cutting-Edge Visualization and Rendering Techniques
The use of interactive and animated presentations are offering a new frontier for architects. Many clients are no longer satisfied with the traditional presentation boards which may illustrate the proposed structure in a watercolor and ink effect. Instead, a high-resolution, three-dimensional model in which the client can virtually walk through the interior or appear to fly-over the exterior and grounds is quickly becoming the preferred presentation method.
Specialized architectural drafters that possess skills in 3D graphics rendering and automation are utilized to construct many types of visualizations that can be presented on different mediums. For global clients they can be mailed to all representatives on a DVD, emailed as a Flash player file or other video file type, as a movie clip embedded within an informational website, or projected in a client meeting from a laptop onto a whiteboard screen:
- Traditional 3D models can be rendered in multiple ways depending on the client’s preference, including wireframe, watercolor, pen-and-ink with watercolor effect, realistic solids rendering, or photorealistic visualizations.
- A high-resolution walk-through video that guides the client throughout the structure to provide a realistic view of room functions and occupant traffic patterns.
- An exciting aerial animation to present a birds-eye view of the structure exterior, landscaping, parking, and surrounding streets and venues. When mated with a walk-through video, the project stakeholders will receive the ultimate tour and will distinguish your firm as a technology leader.
- High-end interior design virtual staging will turn a basic floor plan into a beautiful space with furnishings, fixtures, artwork, flooring, and the perfect ambient lighting to fill the environment with a sense of purpose.
3D Modeling and BIM Supported Projects
While two-dimensional orthographic architectural floor plans may be sufficient for smaller and simpler projects, a 3D model-centric workflow will draw all design-bid documentation phases from a single, highly-detailed three-dimensional model. From architectural renderings to detailed floorplan design layouts, the construction of elevations and sections, to the final shop drawings and schedules – the 3D model will offer the following benefits:
- increased productivity for orthographic view detailing
- accurate dimensions throughout the documentation process
- coordination of all building systems and components
- solids and material data representation for structural calculations and thermal simulations
- accurate quantity take-offs for estimation purposes
Architectural CAD drafters today more than ever are enjoying an ever increasing role in the construction of environmentally-friendly structures by creating digital BIM models that represent the physical and functional characteristics of construction materials. A vast amount of decision-making information can be contained within a BIM architectural model:
- energy resource allocations including electricity, HVAC, and water, with the aim of managing and reducing energy consumption.
- a structured time-based design-build project design phasing and also construction sequencing.
- automated quantity take-offs and cost estimations
- spatial systems collision detection and installation sequencing
- detailed engineering modeling for energy, thermal, and acoustics
Additional Architectural Drafting Services
When you partner with a quality drafting support service, the benefit of contracting for additional services are a key feature. Labor-intensive post-production drafting will bottleneck in-house staff with ineffective duties rather than focus on creative ideas and meeting deadlines for new clients. Discuss the following additional services which are still a major portion of the architectural drafter’s duties, despite software and hardware advancements: