18 July 2008
2D or not 2D? Hugh Davies on the architectural modelling packages that offer you more
Computers have taken hold of the architectural process as the default means of producing design and construction information. An architect’s office without computer workstations is now unthinkable. However, most computer-aided design remains in the form of 2D drafting rather than 3D modelling. AutoCad dominates the 2D cad market, and all other products position themselves alongside the market leader. 3D cad software is a less mature market and is still much more diverse. And architects could be missing out by not using the 3D capabilities of software packages more effectively.
The big players in 2D cad software — AutoCad, MicroStation and VectorWorks — all contain 3D modelling tools. They have the ability to create accurate and sophisticated models to produce line drawings, rendered images or fly-through animations. Skilled 3D modellers may come up against the limitations of these products, which are likely to concern the ability to model complex curved surfaces or a desire to use the facilities of more specialist rendering packages.
For the 3D novice, VectorWorks has a fairly friendly interface, but for ease of use the favoured solution is SketchUp. Low cost and highly intuitive, it is ideal for creating sketch models that might previously have sent architects reaching for sheets of cardboard or polystyrene blocks. Its rendering capabilities allow the creation of images that are illustrative rather than photorealist.
For complex 3D modelling, particularly where curved surfaces are involved, Rhino is popular. It is currently a PC-only application but an Apple OSX version is being beta-tested, with release expected in a few months’ time. Alternatively, using Apple’s Boot Camp software or virtualisation software such as VMware’s Fusion, Windows PC cad software can be used effectively on Apple hardware.
The concept of the building information model (bim) is promoted by AutoDesk’s Revit, Bentley’s Architecture and Graphisoft’s ArchiCad programs. The goal is to create a single intelligent 3D model of the building from which all presentation and construction information is generated, be this 2D drawings or component schedules. A key selling point is that design decisions are executed in 3D, giving users the ability to identify and resolve conflicts between different building and services elements. The 3D model also lets the user generate updated presentation views of the project at any stage of the design development. Reliance on 3D design files additionally offers the potential of direct transfer of data to computer-aided manufacturing (cam) software.
The concept of bim has been around for a long time but has so far failed to shift the centre of gravity of computer-aided architectural design away from 2D-based cad drafting. For many in the industry, computer modelling is the preserve of the few involved in producing seductive presentation images, and thus is far removed from the day-to-day process of designing and producing production information.
If, as software continues to evolve, more users become familiar with 3D modelling in packages such as SketchUp, the acceptance of fully integrated 3D design might be closer than we think.
For more information
- Spotlight Archive
- Rendering can help build a better picture
- Ojeu tenders website gets a makeover
- Could Newforma Project Centre clean up your desktop?
- Is wireless networking the best choice for your architecture firm?
- The software generation game
- Shine a searchlight on your site
- New year forecast looks cloudy
- What can ebooks do for your firm?
- How to kit out your home office
- A new bite of the Apple
- Making the best of software upgrades
- Conference points to design's virtual future
- How to navigate the cad file pile-up
- Getting it together
- Get the best from the 3D explosion
- Free yourself from computer slavery
- Making a virtual out of necessity
- Taking the first bite of Apple Autocad
- Bim adds an extra dimension
- Apple Autocad software looks fruitful
- Where did all the time go?
- Make sure you're not storing up trouble
- iPad has the right touch for Architects
- Know your building's carbon footprint
- Working Prototypes: 2010 Smart Geometry conference in Barcelona
- Time to explore the world of browsers
- Taxman will pay you to innovate
- Is Google Apps the solution startups are searching for ?
- Beware the pitfalls of new broadband
- What are the odds of defeating spam?
- Make the most of your resources
- Who says backing up is hard to do?
- Breaking away from the slideshow presentation
- Are architects ready to tweet?
- The paper chase is over - what now?
- Vector programs give 2D drawings the edge
- Smart Geometry 2009
- How to budget IT as recession bytes
- Let’s get physical, physical... rapid prototyping helps bring your projects to life
- Searching for the best tender search
- PDFs ready to enter the third dimension
- There's life in the old fax yet
- Don't let your computer catch a malware malady
- Don't forget your backups
- Where has my broadband speed gone?
- 2D or not 2D? Architectural modelling packages that offer you more
- How smart devices can make the office more efficient
- How green is my PC?
- Lomas Davies Twitter