By: Ken Howder
Software in the Architectural Profession (and Lacking Thereof), Part 1
As probably everyone in the world is aware of, the technological advances made on frequent intervals can be somewhat overwhelming. This is exceptionally true in the construction/building industry and industrial applications. The common technological-indulgent person can now go out to pretty much any convenience store and pick up a new ‘cutting-edge’ (relative to the following, however most of these pre-paid phone packages and cheap laptops aren’t the ideal solution that one might want in regards to reliability and performance) cell phone package or laptop that would put the top-end products from a decade ago to shame. The same is true for those who work in professions that require advanced software tools such as modeling, drafting, and simulation within the architectural/civil/landscape fields. In fact, one might even find the numerous options available to be overwhelming – (i.e. What programs should I use/learn to provide an edge for myself in the market? What programs should I use for drafting, for modeling, for numerical database setup? Etc). This is a tough topic to discuss with someone due to unfamiliarity of their strong and weak points when it comes to computer software tools. If someone translates their design in 3d, or ‘think’ in 3d, using a parametric program (Revit, ArchiCAD) would be ideal. SketchUp, Rhino, 3dsMax, Blender, and the rest of the typical 3d-modeling (non-architectural-parametric) can be just as effective for a 3d thinker, but several of these programs do not have those architectural-specific features that makes the design process within Revit/ArchiCAD so effective for time management and productivity. It should be noted that there are work arounds for all of these programs that can bring them up to speed for architectural purposes – plugins for these software packages are created for almost every need on might have while using these programs.
What is becoming more popular, it seems, is the use of simulation software (IES-VE, Vasari (project was halted and incorporated into Revit), grasshopper, etc.) to help kick-off their initial design process by evaluating different solutions by their desired properties. This is a great way to start a project. It is an even better method to use your native software for your designs, and test the initial concepts, adjust, and repeat. However, these programs run into similar and independent disadvantages as choosing ones native 3d modeling software (for 3d thinkers) or 2d-vector based program (AutoCAD, Vector works, Illustrator, Sketch up Layout, etc.). Which program to use for their work? Most people probably aren’t willing to put the time needed to actually test all of these different programs just to find the ones suitable for them and their work, so they typically pick a package and gamble on its functionality – but even more, on whether or not the specific firms that they may want to apply for, use the programs that they have chosen to learn as well.