How CAD Programs Changed The Architectural World Forever

As with most industries, there’s been at least one breakthrough piece of technology that has advanced or completely revolutionized processes. For all aspects of design, this was through the invention of Computer-aided Design or CAD programs. The architectural industry was completely changed as architects were able to create more accurate drawings in a much faster timeframe.

The Origins Of CAD

The 1960s was a time of innovation for designers. In the early 60s, a man named Patrick Hanratty created the DAC, which stood for Design Automated by Computer, while he was working for General Motors. It is thought of as the first CAD-style system that used interactive graphics as part of its user interface. 

Then in 1963, a man named Ivan Sutherland created a program called Sketchpad. This program’s claim to fame was from the user’s ability to draw directly on the screen with a light pen. Think of an Apple Pencil on an iPad but low tech, or if you’re older, think of a PDA with a stylus but much bigger because it’s connected to a computer with a CRT monitor. For those of you who are younger, a CRT monitor or Cathode Ray Tube were the monitors that came before flat screens, they had a back that extended out further than the actual screen size and were heavy.

Patrick Hanratty developed ADAM or Automated Drafting And Machining in 1971. This was the “first commercially available integrated, interactive graphics design, drafting, and manufacturing system.” Aside from those features, it was designed to run on pretty much any machine on the market which made it widely successful. At this point, however, these types of programs weren’t widely used as the technology was still expensive for most design departments.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that CAD became available and affordable enough for it to become an industry staple. This is also when schools began to offer classes that specialized in CAD programs and now design courses usually incorporate some sort of training with a CAD-style program.

Improvement Of Work Times

As stated before, CAD programs have let architects create accurate drawings in a shorter time frame. This is because the computer does most of the heavy lifting, all the tools and calculations are done by the program on the fly, thus minimizing human error. In addition, any revisions or edits that are needed can be done on the same file, as opposed to manual drawings where a whole new plate must be created.

With CAD came the ability to create drafts without necessarily having the best drawing skills. Do note this doesn’t mean you can forego the basics of design, it just simply means being a good artist or being able to draw well isn’t as much of a barrier to entry to becoming an architect or designer.

Probably the biggest benefit next to faster creation and editing times would be the ability to collaborate quickly. Files can be transferred online where internet speed, particularly the upload and download speed, is the only external factor that can hinder collaboration. A team comprised of architects from anywhere in the world could come together to work on a singular project if needed.

Remote Capabilities

As stated before, CAD programs allow for work anywhere in the world. This came became more important with the whole COVID Pandemic in 2020. With the ability to work outside of an office, business could continue as usual. Likewise, collaborations on projects didn’t stop like in other industries due to the ease of sending and receiving files.

This also opened up new opportunities, most notably remote staffing. This is a specialized form of outsourcing where highly-trained professionals are hired to perform specific backend duties at cost-effective price points. As transferring files has become easier and easier, especially through the use of cloud storage, your staff can be halfway around the world and still be collaborating in real-time with your in-office team.

The Wrap Up

CAD has effectively streamlined work for architects. The days of starting a plate over because of revisions are long gone. With a couple of clicks and adjustments, new measurements can be input and checked. With technology constantly advancing it’s possible to work on a draft from hundreds of miles away. Being able to hire a team of drafting professionals at the price point of one in-office drafter is allowing many architectural firms to grow at a much faster rate, due to the number of jobs that can be taken on at once.