alternate cad software

As a subscriber to the AIA Knowledge Net emails I get all kinds of crap that mostly I’m not terribly interested in.  But lately there have been some good questions and discussions about alternate cad software.

By alternate I mean anything other than Autocad and Revit.  Some of the suggestions range from SoftPlan to ArchiCAD to DataCAD to Vectorworks.  Being the resident Autocad Guru in my office (I get lots of “hey can you help me, where’s my toolbar” IM messages from coworkers), I’ve always been partial to Autocad because it’s what I’ve always used.

At a small firm in Northern Virginia, I was forced to use DataCAD.  While very user friendly (I learned the entire program from top to bottom in 3 days), it’s completely button intensive, which I HATE.  I like my keyboard, it’s my friend.  What DataCAD does seem to do well is small scale BIM.  Much like Microstation and ADT, when you place a wall you are placing a 3D object with certain editable properties.  When you place a door, it cuts a hole in the wall and places the door construction into the model.  Schedules can also be generated from the model as long as your tags are correct.

Having never used Vectorworks, ArchiCAD or Softplan I’m curious what criticism there is out there.  I know there’s a lot of hype for Revit right now, but lets be honest, the chances of me going out and spending $5k on a single platform license are much more “none” than “slim”. From the little I’ve read, Vectorworks and ArchiCAD seem to be the front runners for anyone interested in BIM and 3D rendering/modeling.  Thoughts?

walnut house update – jhpc

Link to original post.

walnut house: modern sustainable home approved for jacksonville’s springfield historic district.

this is an awesome step forward for architecture in jacksonville, florida and provides a primer (i’m sure there are others….many others) for other historic districts in the united states.  modern/contemporary architecture should not be seen as something that will detract from the historical nature of a neighborhood, but rather something that will ADD TO the historical nature by being in contrast to historic homes/buildings.

check out Content Design Group’s website for more information and a reaction from the homeowners upon hearing that their home was approved for construction.

study break time

I’ll be taking a break the next couple of weeks from blogging and design to get back into study mode for the A.R.E.  I’m on Programming, Planning and Practice and I have a feeling the Site Design Vignette is going to kick my a$$.  If anyone has any good resources, other than the Forums obviously, please send them my way.

It’s time to get licensed, baby!

where we need to go

As it so often happens, I got a burst of inspiration for a new house design – a cheap one…well, not cheap, but at least affordable.  Not two days after this brilliant burst of inspiration, I’m on a friends site and I see this post for the Architect that runs the Rural Studio Project out of Auburn and it brought it all home for me.  For years now I’ve been shouting at the wind about how Architects, Designers, Developers and even city planners do not design or build for “the average” person.  They design for developers that then sell to the average person, or they design for large corporations that then hire the average person to work for them.  There is a great disconnect between Architects/Designers and those that actually live/work in our creations.
Go onto any firm website and read the “about us” or “process” section and you’ll see one overwhelming constant – “we focus on our clients needs”.  Well, that’s great, but the reality is we need to focus on the needs of those who will actually inhabit our buildings.  A developer doesn’t really care about the “function” of his apartments or suburban housing tract.  He cares about his bottom line and a series of reactions to questions posed to a “test group” of potential buyers.  This information is then filtered through the developer to the Architect and into the design……see the immediate flaw in this method of creating architecture?  Similarly, a commercial building owner does not care about how the individual tenant spaces will be used.  He cares about total leaseable space.
In any economic condition Architects should be focusing more on those that will truly benefit from our services.  The average homeowner, the small business owner, students, teachers and employees.  In the area of residential design, especially, there is a increasing disconnect between the architect and the homeowner.  This will only continue to hurt the architectural fabric of our neighborhoods.  If we as Architects can put ourselves back in that market, in the role as the Master Builder and take on clients that would not normally consult with us, then we can start to have a real impact on how communities function and interact.

Digital Submission/Signatures

The last couple of days I’ve been getting emails fired at me from AIA PMKC about digital submissions of projects and digital tracking of transmittals, submittals, RFI’s etc.  This is an exciting topic for me because I really hate trying to keep track of emails and project files in paper form.  Something important ALWAYS gets lost in the chaos.
In these emails there are several software platforms that have been mentioned that I’ve done some very cursory research on.  Bluebeam PDF Revu, an alternative to Adobe Acrobat is the first one that really caught my eye.  First because of the price (it’s approx. $500 cheaper than Adobe) and second because of the advanced markup capabilities specifically designed for Autocad and Revit.  If anyone out there has any experience with this software, please post a comment and let me know.  I’m seriously thinking of switching over from Acrobat, but I’d like some practical critique of the software first.
The next software platform that caught my eye is Newforma for project management integration.  This is a software platform that manages all of the digital data that accumulates during the course of a project; i.e. transmittals, emails, submittals, RFI’s, ASI’s, the works.  There doesn’t seem to be any information on cost (I expect it not to be cheap considering the level of integration they describe), but in the interest of streamlining the accumulation of digital data on a project, I’m thinking it may be worth it.  Again, anyone with experience with this platform or others like it, please post some comments and links.
Digital submission of construction drawings and contract documents is where we need to be headed and software platforms like these make me excited for the near future of our profession.

Olga Pergola and Kitchen

We’re working on a new small project, but a fun one just the same.  A pergola and outdoor kitchen at a historic residence in the Riverside area of Jacksonville.  The client plans to build a small outdoor kitchen out of some reclaimed granite counters with a brick base and cover the whole space with a wood pergola.  Here is our first pass at a design.  Thoughts, comments and criticisms welcome.

Content Design Group – Walnut House

My friends over at Content Design Group are pushing an EXCITING project through the proper channels here in Jacksonville – a true modern residence in a historic district (Springfield).  This is an amazing first step for Architects and Designers in Jacksonville.  This home will set the precedent for modern architecture in historic districts all over the city.  I’m excited and you should be too!

image courtesy of