Architectural Drafting and Detailing (CAD) began in the mid-1970s, with rather humble beginnings, that is, when you consider the tremendous effect that computer-aided drafting and detailing services have exerted on the architectural and construction industry. Today’s buildings are designed faster, with fewer miscalculations, embracing greater creativity, and are by far structurally stronger and built with advanced energy saving and eco-friendly materials. Furthermore, CAD software which once resided on huge workstations with monochromatic green or black-and-white monitors has become one of the most powerful software platforms being used in modern technology and now operates on most laptops or personal computers.
CAD As A Drafting Production Tool
Those who have been a part of architectural CAD since its inception can reminisce of a time when each drafting department saved architectural plan drawings on floppy disks, then interchanged these files with the mechanical, electrical, plumbing or structural departments where each group would add their respective system designs. It was a cumbersome process, riddled with errors and of work being overwritten. Yet, even in this infant stage, as a drafting production tool, the inherent benefits of engineering changes to drawings occurring within minutes, caused a revolution.
As more architectural firms were able to convert hand-drawn vellum drawings into newly acquired CAD systems, A&E firms realized a database of readily available details and plans that could be used over and over again as base drawings for new work would save money from reduced drafting and design costs for architectural design projects. Architects and engineers were now free to change their minds without considering the strain on project schedules or the burden to board draftsmen. The limits of creativity were removed and advanced architectural solutions became possible.
Collaborative Project Workflow Moves CAD Into Design Mode
As advancements in computer hardware enabled more powerful CAD software application development, the single most influential occurrence which fueled the movement of computer-aided drafting forward was the introduction of file-sharing. File sharing allowed each desktop computer operator access to the architectural plans without edit privileges. Architects could now design floorplans while MEP systems (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers incorporate departmental workflow into a collaborative project, simultaneously and progressively building the structure.
MEP coordination drawings can now be developed which allow coordinated system checks between the disciplines allowing proper clearances for all equipment and avoiding field changes and rework due to system interference. Likewise, the creation of shop drawings by third-party suppliers or fabricators is supported by file sharing, keeping projects on schedule for building approvals and construction drawing reviews. This new collaborative design process decreases the time to construction for project managers and reduces engineering errors for A&E firms.
Architectural CAD Embraces 3D and Solids Modeling
As computer technology advanced to smaller workstations with greater computing power, CAD developers integrated true three-dimensional functionality with solids modeling, making AutoDesk Revit an unrivaled leader in total A&E design and drafting solutions. Educational institutions began offering high-level training to produce skilled drafters and detailers to handle the multi-faceted functions which have taken architectural design to the next level:
- Parametric rule-based design geometry ensures main design dimensions are preserved.
- True three-dimensional drawing entities and camera views to orbit 360 degrees around a structure.
- Solids modeling with true material attributes for structural analysis and other engineering calculations.
- Enhanced drafting tools which automate many production tasks.
- Additional tools such as Revit MEP which fully integrates architecture and building systems.
- Conceptual design tools to create free-flowing architectural structures.
Not only has the process of designing and drafting buildings changed, but CAD technology is so advanced that true-to-life models of structures are not simply graphical representations. Today, a three-dimensional model holds critical materials data also; data that allows structural engineers to determine structural stresses and failure rates without cumbersome calculations; architects can change whole room dimensions with one click; HVAC engineers can visualize air flow patterns and make appropriate adjustments; electrical engineers can change power and communications wiring and all supporting documents will reflect new wiring sequences.
Intelligent graphical representations of computer-generated buildings require skilled operators knowledgeable in various software solutions and also experienced in construction trade industry techniques of building. For this reason, outsourced Revit Architectural drafting outsourcing services have gained prominence in helping A&E firms gain skilled staff to handle technically complex architectural projects. When companies partner with experienced CAD drafting and design services, they are able to bid on more projects without the burden of hiring and supervising the required personnel.
Rendering and Animation for Architectural Presentations
With the advent of 3D solids, architectural visualizations have become the new standard for presentations to clients and for public projects. For many years after the introduction of computer-aided design, architects were still using hand-rendered concept models. With the development of a wide array of materials and textures data, architects are now able to display structures in photo-realistic detail. Stunning client presentations are given with vibrant 3D renderings that can be used for many applications – from project planning to real estate developers marketing materials.
The artistic effect of watercolor is still used for many presentations offering a warm and inviting observation of the project, or detailed finishes can be applied which can emulate construction materials such as concrete, steel or wood – even interior designers enjoy watching polished fixtures and upholstered furnishings come to life with computer-generated renderings. Many public projects use renderings to offer the public and accurate visualization of the proposed structure and landscape and has worked to positively influence many project’s acceptance.
Animation of three-dimensional models can enable prospective clients to walk-through buildings, fly-over property, or watch as occupants pass through and conduct daily tasks within a structure. Cloud-computing which stores a significant amount of data outside of a company’s in-house IT infrastructure, now enables clients from around the world to view and give input into projects design reviews without being physically present.
Current State of Technology – Building Information Models (BIM)
Green building construction materials and energy-efficient buildings (BIM models)are driving the current state of computer-aided architectural design. Intelligent graphics will now hold the type of materials used, but also thermal properties, structural properties, HVAC component information, power node data and much much more. The end result is the construction of a building complete with wireless sensors which automatically track and regulate major building energy functions, such peak electrical usage, water flow, heat and cooled air regulation. This information is constantly fed into an energy utilization computer system which trains itself on how to best regulate the buildings energy resources.
The savings for owners in utility rates and the future environmental gains are staggering. Architects are now leading the trend to eliminated wasteful energy and reduce the carbon footprint of large commercial and industrial facilities and CAD BIM is exerting a major influence on future architectural construction design processes.
The Future is Architectural Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is quickly becoming the new frontier for architectural design and drafting on CAD. A full immersion experience into the sounds, movements, textures, and sights are possible with cutting-edge technology eyeglasses and sensors. One day, project owners will take a walk within the proposed structure and virtually experience each space, before construction even begins.
There is really no limit to the extent that architects and engineers can create with the use of 3D CAD architectural drafting and design software. Materials engineering advances will one day allow free-form structures with linear-curvature walls, which for now, can only be visualized on CAD.