In the construction industry, CAD software is mostly used by architects and engineers as part of the building process as it helps us to explore design ideas, draft construction documents and simulate how a building design will actually perform in the real world. Autodesk and AutoCAD are two of the most used software packages within the construction industry, and it is more likely than not that if you purchase one of these packages, an upgrade will be released which will leave you facing the decision as to whether the upgrade is worth it – in terms of time and cost.

Working with many architects and engineers as we do, we have come across a certain reluctance in the industry to update to the latest models of CAD / Autodesk. This isn’t necessarily a cost issue surprisingly it is more to do with the length of time between the architect’s plans and the job needing to be done, along with the difficulties faced with updating during this process.

To understand this reluctance, we really need to understand the building process and the role that CAD tools have to play in it. Obviously, the length of time that a building project will take depends not only on the size of the project but the location of the site and the client’s expectations. However, for the purposes of this post, we will look at the timeline for a typical 4-bedroom house.

Planning and Design

Firstly, the architect will come out for a meeting on site, to discuss the client’s requirements and also take a survey of the existing site (and any buildings that are on site). They will then go off and complete the first sketch of their plans – which could take up to three weeks depending on how much other work they have got on.  Obviously the more complex the brief, the longer the development of the architectural drawings will take. These plans are then sent to the client for consideration, and any comments need to be fed back.

This initial design process would have been completed by the architect using pen and paper in the past, which was not only time-consuming but also inaccurate as well. It was also nigh on impossible for clients to then visualise that building in 3d. With the introduction of CAD software for architects that allows for 3d modelling, plans nowadays tend to be sleeker and more extensive, and they are also more easily shareable using the cloud. The editing and revising process has also been speeded up as architects no longer have to start from scratch every time they need to make a revision, and they can now easily copy any feature from one design drawing to another. One of the great things about the parametric modelling that CAD software allows architects to do is to give their clients a virtual tour of the end building to make it easy for them to see different aspects and perspectives of the building before the first brick is even laid.

Once the initial plans have been agreed by both the client and the architect, the drawings to accompany the planning application need to be prepared, and this is usually where CAD software comes into its own. The drawings that are sent as part of your building consent application are really important, and they need to be clear, correct, complete and include a suitable level of detail to make it easy for your local planning office to make a decision. Depending on what your project is, you may need to include:

  • Site plan
  • Location plan
  • Foundation plan
  • Floorplan
  • Roof framing plan
  • Exterior elevation
  • Construction details
  • Door and window schedule
  • Plumbing layout and a schematic plan
  • Electrical plan

A lot of information needs to go into these plans, as you can see, and so they will probably take a couple of weeks to build on the CAD system. Once the plans have been submitted, planning authorities can take up to 8 weeks to consider them, but it can take between 16 and 18 weeks until you actually get a decision as to whether your project has got approval or not.

Detail Design & Evaluation

Once the planning approval has been gained, the next stage is detailed design, and this is where 3d cad software comes into its own. This stage is concerned with information gathering and the production of detailed drawings using cad modelling, and so the time spent on this part of the task will vary quite considerably depending on the project. The architect may need to call on the help of a structural engineer, for example, to help with the conceptual design and so they may take a few weeks to prepare their documents.  For a typical 4-bedroom house though, this stage usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks.

CAD software in itself can only go so far along the path to assessing cost and risk management, which is where BIM comes into play. Building Information Modelling (BIM) has 4D capabilities which allow architects to track and plan cost management, construction management and project management across all steps of the building process – from design to construction. What this means in real life is that if an architect uses BIM while they are designing a house, they can then pass on a list of all the components involved to the builder who then has a plan of how to build it.

A lot of CAD systems used for solid modelling now have BIM fully integrated into them, so that architects can just use the one system to work out complicated tasks such as testing the weakness of the building. This means that the functional requirements of the building are no longer a separate entity to the actual design, and so the workflow time has been dramatically reduced.

Once all the drawings are in place, and contractors have been selected, then the actual construction of the building can take anything from 8 months to 14 months altogether. So, overall from the first meeting, you have with the architect, to the project actually being completed on site will take anything from 18 months upwards.

What issues could upgrading your CAD software cause?

As you can see the actual time taken from start to finish for a building project can often be years, meaning that your CAD software may prompt you for an upgrade at least once if not twice. One issue you may face if you do upgrade is that other people working on the project – such as the engineer may be running a different version, and their version may be incompatible with your version. This may mean that one of you is going to be forced to upgrade their software at some point so that you can overcome this problem.

Once you have done the upgrade this doesn’t solve all your issues automatically though. Some CAD software is not backwards compatible and so you will need to upgrade every installation of the software that you own, as well as checking each CAD file you have to make sure it is updated to the newest version.

As you can see, it is no wonder that there is such a resistance to upgrading CAD software in the world of construction, but it is something that we do here at the CAD Room as we always want to offer our clients the best service. For example, we have software installed at the moment that we probably won’t use with clients for the next couple of years, but this gives us time to get to know it and be used to using it by the time the demand for it arises.

If you would like to know more about our CAD services, then please give our friendly and experienced team a call today on 0161 427 0348 or drop us an email to