Architecture software is used primarily by architects to visualize, create, view, and document building designs with powerful 2D precision drawing and drafting tools. Additional capabilities include schedule management, drafting automation, and customizable work environments.
Products in the Architecture category offer a repertoire of 2D design tools that assist in the process of scheduling, planning, and executing detailed construction drawings. Using personalized environments, these platforms allow architects to simulate real-world obstacles, helping provide advanced problem solving abilities. Some products, similar to those in General-Purpose CAD and Building Design and Building Information Modeling (BIM) categories, include 3D modeling capabilities and integrations, allowing for a greater ability to visualize and generate complex designs.
To qualify for inclusion in the Architecture category, a product must:
Architecture software allows architects to communicate their designs, intentions, and expectations in a digital format. That communication happens between architect, designer, contractor, engineer, material supplier, and (most importantly) client. At the minimum, architectural software reduces errors, boosts efficiency, and ensures accuracy of calculations. Architecture software can enhance manual drawings and workflows, as well as streamline and provide comprehensive oversight for the entire architect and construction project lifecycle. The software also allows architects and contractors to ensure their agendas and cost estimates are set in place–—and agreed upon with the client—prior to embarking upon a project. Architecture software makes sure that those plans meets legal and safety requirements.
The requirements and needs of architects blur the lines between architectural software, BIM applications, and CAD systems. Architecture software also isn’t architect- or architectural firm-exclusive; this software type can be used by drafters, engineers, contractors, and builders.
Architectural software facilitates the creation of any and all documents regarding the plans for a project.
While the idea of an architect’s studio covered in blueprints and paper contracts is romantic, it’s neither efficient nor desirable. Human error is always an inevitable part of any industry, but it comes at a higher cost (literally) in the architectural industry. Why slowly and manually calculate mathematical equations or painstakingly redraw plans after client feedback? Software is equipped with algorithms and allows designers to manipulate their drawings at will. Architects are no longer constrained by the limits of paper; they can easily work in 3D and 4D.
With an architecture software tool, you can:
A major benefit of utilizing architecture software is that it opens up channels of collaboration and communication between architects, designers, engineers, and clients. Architectural software enhances workflow, regardless of whether an architectural firm uses it for design. Software enables electronic file sharing, automatic quantity takeoff and estimation, and overall project management. Editing features ensure that everyone relevant has contributed to the project, before and during construction.
Architectural software also reduces fragmentation between different players: All designs, information, edits, and changes are centralized into one database. This minimizes conflict, creates a source of truth, and simplifies project coordination. Additionally, architecture software improves business outcomes for clients, because of its tendency to create transparency at every step of the project.
Those who are involved in architecture agencies and projects utilize architectural software. This includes architects, designers, contractors, subcontractors, clients, and compliance and legal professionals.
Rendering – 2D and 3D renderings (even without the help of augmented reality (AR) technology) enable architects to show clients realistic models and visualizations. By rendering their concepts, architects can present to clients how their plans will look upon completion.
Drafting – Architectural software must allow for direct drafting or the import and/or export of drafts in the software. Whether the drafts can be initially drawn in 2D and then prototyped in 3D doesn’t matter, so long as the software enables drafting capability. An added bonus to this drafting feature is architecture calculators, which can automate the counting of resources, materials, and finances.
Workflow – Effective architect software should facilitate the integration of existing workflows. Once those workflows are uploaded into the software, they can be better monitored and tracked, ultimately enabling full collaboration across the organization. Integrated workflows also speed up the entire design and construction processes, because they reduce redundant, back-and-forth communication.
Database – A lot of architecture software offers some version of a database. This can range from a materials database, full of updated costs and availability, to a file storage database. Regardless of database type, it will be helpful for the architect who wants to go back and find context for their original drafts and plans.
Document management – Architect assets are digital designs and drafts. Architecture software that provides a place to store, edit, and share those pieces of content helps professionals stay on top of things. With document management capabilities, drafts, plans, and communication can be standardized and tracked more efficiently. Additionally, some document management modules can ensure file compatibility. For those that do, this can be a make-it-or-break-it feature; if a software is unable to export or import files in a certain file type, then architects are forced to jump through hoops during presentation and sharing. Some software will integrate with business content management solutions, easing the entire process of identifying, discovering, and tracking down relevant content.
Project management – Job costing, job coordination, time tracking, and business reports are not architecture industry-specific features, but they are crucial to keeping architecture projects from blowing past initial estimates and undermining client relationships.
Integration with accounting solutions – Beyond basic invoicing and generating of BOQs (bill of quantities), architecture software usually does not offer a full-fledged accounting module. Integration with third-party accounting solutions, then, can enhance the benefits of architectural software within a design firm.
Integration with CAD and BIM – Despite any overlaps between CAD and BIM software with architecture software, not all architecture software necessarily offers those capabilities. Integration with CAD and BIM enables architectural software to demonstrate a greater ability for visualization and design generation.
Construction site management – Contractors, engineers, and construction crews make possible the physical reconstruction of design plans into tangible buildings. Therefore, architectural software that offers construction site management features helps provide synchronization and consistency across the entire building lifecycle.
Continued benefits of automation — The more menial and manual tasks that can be automated with architectural software, the more creative and technical energy architects can put towards their projects. Instead of wasting time redrafting or editing drawings, architects and designers can better client relationships, adhere to any and all regulations, and attempt to keep to budget.
New developments in AEC — The intersection between the different industries that make up AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) and developments in technology continues to transform and innovate design. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will only add to the capabilities of simulations and 3D modeling, rendering, and other visualizations. Additionally, plugins and mobile applications are regularly cropping up and enhancing existing tools, based on newly discovered needs and requirements of AEC.
New applications for AR/VR — These technologies will continue to transform construction site observation and building and field inspection. VR can enhance existing construction processes, keeping open the lines of communication between architecture firms and relevant players throughout the entire project lifecycle. VR makes possible the synchronizing of virtual environments with planned-out data points and design plans. AR can better capture the layouts of construction sites, adding to the usefulness of plans and models, by creating realistic visualizations of the "real world." AR also promises to further reduce project costs, as both architects and contractors can plan out every single variable before physically breaking ground.
Cloud and/or mobile technology — While architects may generally draft up building plans at their desks, cloud and/or mobile technology is a boon because it encourages and allows for the presence of the architect at a site. Gathering, storing, and sharing data from any device at any time is hugely desirable and almost expected at this point in time. Cloud technology can also be updated in real-time, which is helpful to accurately track the progress of projects.
Ideally, architecture software reduces the time and energy spent on creating drafts, communicating with clients and relevant parties, and adjusting plans throughout the project lifecycle. Architecture software equips agencies and professionals with the tools to discover efficiencies, ensure accuracy despite speeding up the lifecycle, and facilitate integration between disparate solutions that may already be in place.
However, despite the hundreds, if not more, hours of manpower that could be saved by utilizing such software, there are still some issues that arise when implementing it:
Sweeping learning curve – Ironically, the biggest hurdle with architecture software is the technology bit. Like landscape designers or other trades that put emphasis on hand drawing skills, it’s difficult to convince professionals to switch to a mostly—if not entirely—digital platform. Additionally, some architecture solutions are either too expensive for smaller-sized design firms or independent architects or too expansive for the technically-unsavvy user to comfortably learn.
Hand drawing versus digital drawing – Architecture software logically increases efficiencies in drawing, drafting, and file sharing. However, some architects resolutely prefer the old-school creative process. The issue, then, is how to onboard those architects who refuse to adopt new technologies. The silver lining here, though, is that those architects would probably gravitate toward software that allows them to export their hand drawn sketches into the software.
Project management – If an architecture software doesn’t provide visibility into the progress of projects and continued availability of resources, it’s difficult to argue that the unfamiliar tool will ultimately be useful. Helpful architectural software should take over the manual process of coordinating project leads, contractors, and team members. The tool should also unify the entire architecture project, allowing for harmony and reduced friction and misunderstanding.
CAD — CAD stands for "computer-aided design," and CAD software can be used across a number of industries to produce technical drawings of buildings and physical objects.
BIM — Building information modeling (BIM) software offers the architecture and construction industries with a model-based process for designing buildings and infrastructures. The appealing aspect of BIM is its ability to generate a granular, digital design which professionals can better present to their clients.
Sketching — Sketching software digitizes the previously manual process of creating drawings on paper. The software can transform 2D digital sketches into 3D files and typically integrates with CAD solutions.
Drawing — Similar to sketching software, drawing software enables users to draw on their computers or other relevant mobile devices. Drawing software always allows users to export completed drawings into commonly used file types.
3D Rendering — 3D rendering software fully realizes both 2D and 3D models, designs, and images. Architecture software that provides 3D rendering capabilities further helps clients visually imagine the plans of architects and designers.
Team Collaboration — An already touched-upon benefit of architecture software is its capability to induce collaboration and communication between team members. While architectural software’s collaboration features might not necessarily integrate with team collaboration-specific tools, it still echoes or mimics them.
Project Management — Like any other project, architectural projects require a lot of coordinating and monitoring, especially considering that they tend to quickly blow past their initial budget.
Construction Management — Architect designs and plans are realized on construction sites. Construction management software helps companies oversee and follow the progress of construction projects and activities of construction crews.
Field Service Management — Because construction management solutions specifically oversee the activities of construction crews, field service management (FSM) software would be a helpful supplement for architectural software. After all, construction field workers are not the only extra personnel involved in architectural projects.
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