How Industries Use CAD: Architecture

Updated Jan 13, 2020
CAD in Architecture

CAD software has changed the way the world works, particularly in the engineering and architectural industries. It has replaced traditional drafting and design methods like pen and paper, allowing industries to plan, simulate and produce their new ideas in a single program. We’re going to take a look at the role of CAD in the architecture industry, highlighting how CAD has revolutionized the intricacies of the planning, design and evaluation processes. 

CAD programs are used across a huge number of different industries. As a result, a vast array of specialized programs have had space to flourish; each focusing on the needs of its specific industry. This constant evolution is particularly evident in architecture with the introduction of Computer-Aided Architectural Design (CAAD). While CAD refers more generally to the design process, CAAD programs cater specifically to the architectural industry. They have specialized databases of building parts and construction knowledge, and support the creation of architectural objects.

These programs allow those in the architectural industry to turn their concepts into detailed designs, and even allow for 3D visualizations and simulations

Planning & Design

Before CAD, architects would make use of the traditional pen-and-paper method to draw their design plans. This was, however, a time-consuming and inaccurate process, and made it extremely difficult to portray buildings in their full three dimensions. That’s not to say that pen-and-paper is obsolete. Many architects still prefer to create initial designs on paper before transferring them to CAD. This is made possible thanks to software like Scan2CAD, which can convert scanned drawings to the CAD formats such as DWG and DXF.

Architects can create sleeker and more extensive plans thanks to the precision, accuracy and 2D/3D capabilities offered by CAD. CAD also makes it easy to to share and collaborate on designs, courtesy of widely-accepted file types such as DXF and the dawn of cloud-based CAD. It also speeds up the process of editing and revisioning by allowing architects to store design plans and features. Architects no longer have to start from the beginning every time they revise a design, and they can easily copy any feature from one design to another.

example of a floor plan in autocad

Example of a floor plan in AutoCAD

Architects use their 2D plans to create 3D designs. They can then visualize and simulate their entire project using real-world parameters, without needing to build any physical structures or models. With CAD, architects are able to view different aspects and perspectives of their building from within a single program. This allows them to locate and fix problems quickly and efficiently. They can then present these designs to their client as a virtual tour.

example of 3d design visualisation in revit

Example of 3D design visualization in Revit


Typically, pure CAD can only offer so much in the ways of cost and risk management. So architects turn to BIM for answers.

Building Information Management (BIM) provides many advanced capabilities beyond CAD. BIM supports cost management, construction management and project management. It also allows architects to track and plan various stages from design to construction with its 4D capabilities. Essentially, it’s all about providing users with the functional and informational aspects of architecture. For example, an architect can design a house, and then use BIM to list all of the components involved, so a builder can then produce it.

Around 38% of CAD users in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) sector currently use BIM. Within this sector, it is projected to grow by 42% in the next 3-5 years. The purported benefits of BIM include cost savings, design improvements and savings on design time

Many CAD systems have become fully integrated with BIM, giving architects the complex interface that they require. Architects can use this integrated software to work out structural intricacies like gravity levels, and to test any weaknesses of the design. The design is no longer separate from the functional information/requirements—a distinction which had previously lengthened the workflow. The new systems are considerably more efficient, meaning that architects have the power to bring their designs to life in a cost- and time-effective way. 

example of revit's scheduling system

Screenshot of Revit’s scheduling system

CAD Software Used In The Architectural Industry

  • AutoCAD Architecture: users can create full-color 3D designs, complete with documentation and schedules. To emphasize the real-world aspect of the designs, all objects exist in relation to one another. For example, a door has a relation to the wall it’s contained in: if the wall is deleted or moved, then the door reacts accordingly. 
  • ArchiCAD: this software comes with 2D and 3D drafting, plus visualization capabilities. It also allows for modification replication. This means that any changes you make to the overall design will be replicated in every view. For example, if a user changes the design of a house, this change will be reflected in the floor plan.
  • Autodesk Revit: users can create designs with precision and efficiency. It also incorporates BIM, allowing for an optimized workflow. The software boasts of 4D BIM capabilities, giving users the ability to track the various stages of their building, from design to construction. It’s a perfect tool for time management
    example of a 3d house screenshot in autocad architecture

    Screenshot of full-color 3D rendering in AutoCAD Architecture

Interested in learning more about CAD? Check out Scan2CAD’s blog, covering all the latest news and tips about CAD. 

scan2cad advert for free trial