1. Computing

AutoCAD Architecture

Floor Plans Made Simple

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


AutoCAD Architecture

I spent a large part of my career working in the architectural field, doing commercial and public education design work. My primary tool, back in the day, was Architectural Desktop. I was pretty proficient with it and spent quite a bit of time putting together the architectural CAD standards and designing wall types, etc. for the firms I worked with. For the last decade or so I’ve been working in the civil design industry so I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to work with the latest and greatest software packages in the architectural field so I decided to do a little bit of testing on AutoCAD Architecture from  Autodesk and see what cool new tools have been added. Wow, was I impressed! Something as simple as performing basic floor plan layout and space planning has been automated to the point where I was able to generate a detailed floor plan in minutes, even though I’ve never actively used this particular program before.

What Are The Program's Best Features?

Now, admittedly, I do have a pretty solid grasp of the basic behind architectural design and drafting but I would have been hard pressed to generate the level of detail AutoCAD Architecture gave me in that amount of time back when I did this for a living. Once upon a time, walls were only semi-intelligent objects in CAD software. They could handle basic linear layout and even present themselves as 3D objects but the biggest problem was always clean up at the corners and intersections of your walls. AutoCAD Architecture has completely resolved those concerns. I was able to simple enter the “Wall” command from the ribbon bar and start drafting my floor plan using simple orthogonal layout tools and every angle, turn, and intersection was instantly cleaned up for me. Using basic CAD Object Snap (OSNAP) commands I was able to subdivide rooms, and add extensions just as simply as drawing lines. I was particularly impressed by the grip editing functionality built into the wall components. By highlighting a wall and selecting the square grip at the middle of it you can move the wall and all intersecting walls are immediately extended or trimmed to it, keeping your room as a complete design. I also love that you can edit the walls just as if they were simple lines, using the fillet, chamfer, or most any other basic editing command.

What About Doors And Windows?

Autodesk has also dramatically improved the placement of doors and windows within the program. When you place a window, you simply select the size and style of window you want to use, then select the wall you want to add it to. The program allows you to manually slide the wall into position or it allows you to enter dimensions from the wall corner to the window, from either end. Furthermore, once you’ve placed your window, the command continues, allowing you to place multiple along, not just the wall you chose, but any connected wall in your plan at measured increments. Doors work in exactly the same manner and have the added functionality of a simple arrow shaped grip that allows you to flip the direction of the door swing. The window and door components are also located in 3D space; the windows are placed at the sill height you have specified and the door height, jamb widths, etc. are all predefined as part of the placement. Those are some real time saving functions.

Is It Difficult To Use?

Every component within AutoCAD Architecture is an intelligent, dynamic, object that interacts with all the other objects within your drawing. I’ve come to expect this level of function with infrastructure programs like Civil 3D but I was pleasantly surprised to find it so tightly integrated into an architectural package. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that the intelligence here is a step above what I see in civil packages because of its simplicity. This software is so simple and intuitive, I think even someone who has never done a floor plan before in their life could figure it out and put together a presentable layout very quickly.

What Will It Cost Me?

AutoCAD Architecture isn’t cheap software, it retails at around $5300.00 per seat, which puts it outside the price range of most casual users, but if you are doing any type of professional design, such as a small architectural firm or a CAD drafter doing a bit of consulting work on the side, it’s well worth the investment. A with most Autodesk software, you can download a free student version for your own use. It won’t let you use the software for commercial use but if you are looking to learn architectural drafting or in any kind of a design program at your school, this program gets one of my highest recommendations.