Architecture and engineering employ CAD to both aesthetically design buildings and endow them with structural stability. Architects and engineers do not typically use the same type of CAD program, but instead each use the one that is geared to their fields. For instance, the CAD Company Autodesk sells architecture, engineering, and construction software. Furthermore, designers can choose either a basic or more deluxe CAD program. Larger firms often purchase AutoCAD since this program has many more bells and whistles. However, smaller firms may not have the means to purchase AutoCAD (which can cost up to $2,000). Therefore, they opt for smaller, less costly programs such as QuickCAD and AutoSketch. In addition, many at-home designers or drafters choose these smaller programs because their PCs can store them.
Drafting and designing are often used interchangeably. By technical definition, however, their work slightly differs. Designing refers to the conceptualization of a building. Drafting, on the other hand, relates to formal drawings that list a building’s dimensions for builders to follow. In a sense, designing is a more creative process while drafting requires more technical skills.
It is essential for a building’s dimensions to maintain structural stability. That said, most architects and engineers are trained to do both designing and drafting for their jobs. Moreover, they often use CAD to do both these processes. Yet, it is becoming somewhat more common for architect and engineering firms to rely on CAD contractors. These contractors usually work at computer-aided design services firms, which hire them out to do the CAD work (or some portion of it) for architect or engineering firms. This practice will likely become more commonplace because it is often cheaper for businesses to hire contractors rather than operate a staff of full-time designers.
One of the greatest advantages of CAD software is that it can automatically calculate the correct dimensions for buildings while they are being designed. This eliminates a huge amount of work for drafters, since in the past they had to mathematically calculate the safest dimensions for each segment of a building. This CAD feature is also extremely time and cost-efficient, because hand-drafting requires many special materials as well as constant revisions of the building plan. In contrast, CAD requires no extra materials since it is completely digitalized. Its revisions are much simpler as well, because CAD-using designers have no need to redraw the entire design on paper, but perform a few computer operations to get the same result.
It is common for CAD designers and drafters to only work on separate components of a building rather than work on the entire building. For example, several drafters may work the dimensions of a building’s heating system, while several designers may conceptualize the building’s second floor. Nonetheless, all CAD designers discuss ideas with their clients, and have their clients review the CAD designs before starting construction.
CAD is likewise beneficial to customers because it enables designers and drafters to more accurately calculate the final cost of a building project. Naturally, uncontrollable aspects such as natural disasters figure into the final costs, but CAD’s ability to simulate construction allows designers to give their clients a far more precise range of expenses. This simulation also gives clients a more vivid idea of their final project than a blueprint. CAD’s lifelike simulation helps clients feel more comfortable working with the designers and reduce the chances they will be disappointed in the final product.
CAD also allows clients to play a more hands-on role in the design of their buildings. For example, an architect may be able to show a client how the building’s heating system will run. For cost purposes, the client may ask how efficiently the heating system works, and whether it would be better to find a more energy-efficient heating system, such as solar panels. The architect can then modify the design by adding solar panels to designated areas of the building. The customer has then not only contributed to the building’s redesign, but considerably lowered his long-term costs.
The above example also stands as an example of “green” CAD. Since more people are demanding environmentally sound buildings, CAD has become the primary medium for more green designs. For instance, architects can save green building models to CAD that forms the basis for green architectural designs. Green building has become so popular now that entire firms of green architects now exist. They are adapting CAD programs to fit their needs, since there are not yet CAD programs that center on green architecture.
To learn CAD, designers and drafters have many educational options. They can attend technical school and earn an associate’s degree in computer aided design and drafting technology. This degree often leads to entry-level CAD jobs at CAD-services firms. However, if they want to become full-time architects or engineers, they are urged to obtain a bachelor’s degree in their field. They are also encouraged to obtain certification in some of the leading CAD programs, such as AutoCAD and SolidWorks.
Anyone who works a CAD job is well-primed to earn a higher salary. For example, jobs in mechanical engineering design earn about $62,000 per year, with senior engineers earning up to $77,000. Even entry-level workers earn about $50,000 per year, which surpasses the average entry-level salary.