Traditionally, architects have used blueprints, material prototypes, and sketches to present to clients as building models. Blueprints, however, are typically difficult to explain to customers because customers often detect merely a series of lines where an architect sees a complete structure. Architects take a great deal of time explaining blueprints to customers, and even then may not impart understanding. By working for computer aided drafting and design jobs, architects use CAD software as an equally comprehensible presentation piece for them and their clients.
CAD software includes many special features. Users can alternate between exterior and interior views of the building, as well as two- and three-dimensional views. Moreover, users can zoom in and out on certain features of the building without changing its scale, and rotate individual objects to obtain 360 degree views. On clients' parts, they typically have little trouble understanding the project's building phases, and are often more excited by this computerized development than they would be with blueprints.
Architects have a likewise pleasant experience using CAD software. They are thrilled by using software that enables them to document their visions, regardless if they have artistic talent. Besides envisioning ideas, they use CAD to modify existing building plans using simple keyboard actions. In the past, these same modifications forced them to painstakingly redraw blueprints. CAD enables architects to use their time to greater efficiency and expedite the building process, which is a win-win situation for both architects and their clients.
CAD software is also useful because it acts as a working journal for architects. While working out their designs, architects can take notes on ideas and save potential designs onto their computers for future reference. They can also achieve greater precision using CAD because many CAD programs translate lines into vectors, which consist of mathematical equations. Again, this automated precision greatly shifts architects' time into doing more design processes rather than time-consuming measurements and calculations. Architects also take heart that the most striking architecture is often grounded in this mathematical regularity.
CAD has become so crucial to architectural design that there are now professional CAD associations, such as the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA). This association seeks to unite those architects that work jobs in computer-aided design. The association also strives to assist those who may just be starting to use CAD software. Though CAD programs are fairly simple to learn, many newcomers feel intimidated by the staggering amount of design features. Besides offering assistance, ACADIA holds yearly conferences to discuss digital design trends, upgrades, and present new CAD projects.
A similar development of CAD use is the International Journal of Architectural Computing, which is peer-reviewed by not only ACADIA members but also members of other foreign-based associations. Moreover, many CAD users can now achieve two-year associate's degrees at many colleges, as well as certification in certain CAD programs. Many architects who use CAD, however, obtain bachelor's degrees and even master's degrees in architecture, and also work jobs in computer aided design throughout their college careers.
The most popular CAD programs include AutoCAD, Vector works, and Turbo CAD. Many times, managers at architectural firms select which CAD program to use, while self-employed architects choose for themselves.
Though CAD programs seem a generally positive trend, a number of architects regard it as a double-edged sword. This ambivalent attitude is due to CAD programs that can be bought by non-architects. For instance, home-design software makes it possible for people to use the same basic features of CAD on their home computers. If they use this software to design their home, they may directly contact a contractor and forgo an architect altogether. Needless to say, architectural jobs will suffer if this situation becomes more common.
Another drawback of CAD, many architects believe, is that it stifles architectural creativity. They attest that drafting skills help architects completely familiarize themselves with their building in a way that no computer can. They also allude to the architects of ancient times who relied strictly on their minds and hands to realize magnificent structures. They then decry computers as an insidious technology that has alienated the architect from his craft.
However much CAD remains a polarizing issue, many architects have adhered to it because it permits them to focus on the creative aspects of their jobs they love most. Conversely, other architects protest that computers do not diminish brainpower, but enhance mental grasp of mathematical principles and their effect on spatial relations. They believe that computers' integration of structurally sound mathematics will push architecture to its limits. The most moderate of these groups counsel to forgo neither pen nor computer. They advise architects to perceive CAD as a practical tool rather than a magic bullet.