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Last edited 07 Feb 2019
Building drawing software
Designing buildings is a process that has become dominated by computers. The use of software tools during the design phase can automate repetitive calculation and drawing tasks, help find new design solutions and provide high degrees of precision. This can make the design process faster, clearer and more effective compared to traditional manual drafting.
In this context, the term ‘drawing’ may now signify either a traditional paper-based output or a ‘drawing’ that is either viewed on a computer screen or created in some other form, such as electronic files used for the manufacture of building components. Either may be generated by computed aided design (CAD) software.
Computer Aided Design (CAD) originated in the aircraft industry in the 1960s and entered architectural design in the 1980s. CAD software gradually improved the 2D drawing process. In the 1990s, tools began to provide the potential for 3D drawing and subsequently, object-oriented design systems were developed. Such 3D software is widely used to prepare presentational images or production information enabling the manufacture of building components.
When the use of software is limited to solely drafting without a design element, it is more accurately termed Computer Aided Drafting. When a design element is involved, the process is sometimes referred to as either the all-encompassing computer-aided design (CAD) or more accurately computer-aided design and drafting (CADD).
 Software types
Generally, CAD can be used to create 2D or 3D representations, and can also be used to generate animations and other presentational material. It may also allow the addition of supplementary information such as dimensions, descriptions of components and references to specifications.
Software for 2D drafting, 2D design and 2D drawing is widely available as free and open-source programmes that can be downloaded easily. These relatively basic drafting systems provide a simple approach to 2D drafting and allow various adjustments to be made in the final draft, such as scale and placing on the project sheet.
More complex 'solid' modelling CAD software helps designers see the designed object as if it were the real thing (a virtual model) and generates views from various directions. 3D drafting software provides complex features, especially for designing and viewing objects in ‘three-dimensions’. It can generate wireframe models – typically an extension of 2D drafting where each line is manually inserted – or create more complex 3D ‘dumb’ solids – geometric forms that can be added to or subtracted from, and modelled like a real-world object. 3D solid modelling software is one of the most advanced methods of geometric modelling and typically comprises two types: parametric modelling and direct or explicit modelling.
Software (such as AutoCAD LT), also includes tools for collaboration and documentation, a web and mobile app, and more. The advantage of such systems is that they allow enhanced mobility as work can be accessed anywhere through web and mobile apps. Drawings can also be accessed through a normal web browser.
Much progress has also been made in semi-automating the freehand drawing arena: drawing and painting software provides the possibilities of sketching and creating illustrations and can suit most platforms and devices.
The use of CAD can help:
- Improve the speed of production.
- Improve the quality of drawn information.
- Reduce development costs.
- Generate visualisations during the design process to help decision making.
- Improve accuracy.
- Reduce errors.
- Enable changes to be made more easily and so facilitate the consideration of a wider range of options.
- Allow drawings to be generated at a wide range of scales, and with the addition of accurate information, including dimensions.
- Allow easy re-use of information.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a very broad term that describes the process of creating and managing digital information about a built asset such as a building, bridge, highway, tunnel, and so on. The UK government has required a minimum of Level 2 BIM on centrally-procured public projects since April 2016, that is, fully collaborative 3D BIM with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic.
Fundamentally, the purpose of BIM is to ensure that appropriate information is created in a suitable format at the right time so that better decisions can be made throughout the design, construction and operation of built assets.
- 4D (including time / programme information).
- 5D (including cost information).
- 6D (including facilities management information).
For more information see: Building information modelling.
 Popular software
- Nemetschek Vectorworks 29%
- Autodesk Revit (Architecture/Structures/MEP) 25%
- Autodesk AutoCAD 15%
- Autodesk AutoCAD LT 13%
- Graphisoft ArchiCAD 8%
- Other 7%
- Bentley Microstation 3%
- Bentley Building Suite (Architecture /Mechanical/Electrical/Structural) 1%
- Trimble Sketchup (formerly Google Sketchup) 1%
- Nemetschek Allplan 0%
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Augmented reality.
- Building information modelling.
- Computer aided design.
- Computer-generated imagery (CGI).
- Construction Operations Building Information Exchange.
- Collaborative practices.
- Computer aided manufacturing.
- Computers in building design.
- Geographic information systems.
- Manual drafting techniques.
- Mixed reality.
- Real time.
- Rapid prototyping.
- Techniques for drawing buildings.
- Types of drawing.
- Virtual reality.
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